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Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has insisted that he will remain loyal to the franchise and won’t chase a trade in the summer as they continue to struggle.
Following on from the failed Dwight Howard move and the on-going injury woes of Steve Nash, the Lakers have come unstuck and look set for another season of struggle before things get better.
Having got off to a 0-4 start to the year, Bryant has been visibly frustrated at times despite his impressive performances, but he insists that he isn’t planning on going anywhere now that the times are tough.
“I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “But that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers.
“I believe in fighting through the tough times as well as enjoying the good times. It’s my responsibility to get us to be the best that we can be. It’s important that we approach that on a day-to-day basis.”
The 36-year-old has averaged 24.8 points per game so far this season after successfully recovering from back-to-back serious injuries which limited him to just six games last year.
While the Lakers will pay Bryant $48.5m over the next two seasons which in turn massively diminishes his trade value, Bryant is adamant that he will help the franchise through this difficult period as they look to make some moves in free agency next year.
“We can’t get discouraged by it,” Bryant said. “It’s a very long season. You just have to stay the course. Keep on looking to improve, keep on looking to get better and things will eventually break.
“I’ve enjoyed a great amount of success here. You can’t just enjoy the successful times and then run away from the bad ones. No, I don’t even think about [departing]. I’m a Laker.”
Bryant had already won three championships with the Lakers when he strongly considered the Clippers as a free agent in 2004 and when he demanded a trade in 2007.
Despite the money on the table and his loyalty, his patience will undoubtedly be tested this year as the Lakers continue to struggle and a move elsewhere to achieve some level of success before he calls time on his career could well become more appealing.