HONOLULU (AP) Jerry Buss has already shown that he'll part with superstars. Yet upon hearing that the Los Angeles Lakers owner would consider trading Kobe Bryant, even Shaquille O'Neal was shocked.
"I guess it's business before loyalty. But, wow. He said that?" O'Neal said Thursday in Miami after learning Buss told reporters he would trade Bryant under the right circumstances.
Buss indeed did, telling three Los Angeles-area beat writers covering training camp in Honolulu on Wednesday that he "would certainly listen" to trade offers for the two-time NBA scoring champion.
"At any time, I think you have to do that with anybody," Buss said, discussing Bryant publicly for the first time since the often-frustrated Lakers' star asked to be traded at the end of last season. "It's just part of the game, to listen to somebody who has a dissatisfied player that you think is going to fit.
"You can't keep too many loyalties. You've got to look at it as a business. He looks at it the same way I look at it."
Buss made his comments to reporters from the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
The Lakers won three championships and reached the NBA finals four times in five years before O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in July 2004. They haven't won a playoff series since O'Neal left, and O'Neal has since helped the Heat win the 2006 NBA title.
"Anyone can be traded, but mine was different because I walked into the office and demanded a trade," O'Neal said. "I don't take loyalty lightly. If you tell me you're going to do something, I expect you to do it. And then when you change your mind without telling me, that means you're disloyal so we can't be down anymore."
Bryant has four years worth $88.6 million left on the seven-year contract he signed a day after O'Neal was traded, but can terminate the deal in two years. That would leave $47.8 million on the table.
"I tend not to think in basketball terms that many years down the road because things change so dramatically, but he could test the waters at that point," Buss said. "If he still is in that frame of mind, then hopefully we can do a sign-and-trade and get some comparable talent. I would like to think that we win between now and then so it doesn't come up."
Following his trade request, Bryant kept a low profile regarding the Lakers until reporting with his teammates Oct. 1 on media day before the team left for Hawaii. Bryant told reporters that frustration led to his blowup. Otherwise, he said the time had come to move forward.
Buss recalled an offseason meeting in Barcelona when he tried to talk Bryant out of the trade request.
"He listened very carefully for 30, 45 minutes," Buss said. "I tried to explain to him how much the city of Los Angeles loved him, and that to leave 10 million sweethearts for unknown territory might not be the right thing to do. But when I was finished, he said he basically felt the same way. And I said, 'OK. With that, I will proceed to see what's available."'
Buss didn't elaborate other than saying he might have acted on a trade offer that was "within reason."
"You have to get comparable value when you make a trade," Buss said. "It's very hard to trade somebody like him because people who have enough material to make it worthwhile are usually contenders and they don't want to make the trade."
Buss also said he occasionally told Bryant of certain offers, none of which he found fair to the Lakers, and acknowledged frustration at losing out to Boston for Kevin Garnett's services.
"I told him that I would try my best to accommodate his wishes, but that I could not afford to let him go unless we got comparable talent if there was such a thing," Buss said.
The 29-year-old Bryant is about to begin his 12th NBA season all with the Lakers.