Around the NBA: Is Kobe on his way out of L.A.?

Chris Beaven

It’s not an NBA season without at least one unhappy superstar.

When that disgruntled multi-millionaire also happens to be the world’s best shooting guard, things can get really interesting.

Trade rumors circulate quickly. A few missed practices jump everything up several more notches.

Welcome to the latest tales from Kobe-Wood.

Kobe Bryant asking to be dealt from the Los Angeles Lakers at the beginning of the summer kicked everything off. After a quiet few months and a positive performance by Bryant with Team USA, things seemed relatively OK in L.A. Then, team owner Jerry Buss tore the scab open again at the beginning of training camp by saying he would listen to trade offers for Bryant.

Where’s the team go from here?

When Bryant missed three practices because of a sore knee, speculation ran rampant. Suddenly, it was reported he had cleaned out his locker.

Bryant quieted that somewhat with a brief TV interview where he was dispassionate, at best, in saying, “If I’m here, I’m ready to strap it up. ... My job is to play the game and get ready to play the game, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Bryant looked impressive in Thursday’s preseason win over Seattle. He scored 20 points despite playing only in the first and third quarters. Sixteen of his points came in the third, when he scored 12 straight at one point. He effortlessly nailed long jumpers and also soared in to finish a lob pass from Ronny Turiaf.

“When I’m here, wherever I’m at, I’m ready to go,” he told media after the game. “It’s not my job to worry about what management is doing at this point. I voiced my frustrations over the summer, and I’ll just leave it there.”

Trading Bryant would be difficult but not impossible.

Chicago and Dallas emerged as the two trading partners most mentioned, though the price could be steep.

Do the Mavericks want to part with Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who revolutionized the way 7-footers play? Do the Bulls want to trade away a promising young talent such as Luol Deng? With Bryant wanting to play for a contender, any team packaging a bunch of players together likely will gut itself in a way that nullifies acquiring the All-Star.

With that in mind, doesn’t the basketball fan in us want to see Bryant lock in and go M.J. — make the Lakers an elite team again by his sheer force of will and talent?

Don’t think it can be done?

Bryant reminded everyone just how good his game is during his time with Team USA in August.

He showed all of his offensive skills — daring drives, twisting and turning finishes and radar-lock jumpers. He also turned it up defensively on a regular basis.

Sure, Bryant was motivated by having teammates such as LeBron James and Jason Kidd. Running the floor with Kwame Brown and Sasha Vujacic doesn’t provide the same inspiration.

But Bryant could do plenty to alter his image as a selfish player if he walks the talk after comments such as this:

“I’m enjoying my teammates,” Bryant said after the Seattle game. “We’re having a good time.”

Coming back

Warriors guard Monta Ellis talked with the reporters for the first time last week after an ugly collision in practice left him with a sprained neck.

Ellis ran into forward Brandan Wright on Oct. 5, hitting his head into the rookie’s hip bone. Ellis experienced tingling in his arms and was held motionless on the floor for more than 30 minutes before emergency personnel arrived.

Ellis has been doing individual workouts, gradually increasing the intensity.

“It’s just a process,” he said. “Whenever you go down like that, it takes time, and you don’t want to rush back too early and then go back to the same thing again.”

Yi impresses

Bucks Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak likes the early progress of No. 6 pick Yi Jianlian. He is averaging 9.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in just under 23 minutes a game. The 7-foot forward is far from perfect — a team-high 14 turnovers and 37.8 percent shooting — but Yi is exactly what his coach looked for in a high draft pick.

“I love what he’s doing,” Krystkowiak told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’m really encouraged for what the future holds for him. It’s been remarkable how fast he’s picked some things up.”

24-second clock

- Kidd has been out with a lower back strain since last Sunday. An MRI Thursday didn’t reveal any serious problems. The New Jersey guard received an epidural to help reduce inflammation in the area and should be back on the floor this week.

- The Mavericks will be without forward Josh Howard when their season begins. The NBA suspended Howard for two games for his brief scuffle Tuesday with Sacramento’s Brad Miller. Howard delivered a forearm to the back of Miller’s head. It was in response to Miller shoving Mavericks guard Devin Harris to the floor. Dallas opens its season Oct. 31 in Cleveland, and that’s when Howard will begin his suspension.

- A collision at a Rockets practice produced some humor from the guy absorbing the brunt of it. Guard-forward Bonzi Wells got a gash on his head after running into Jackie Butler. Wells didn’t need stitches and was able to joke about it. “They just put a little Perma-Bond on there to glue it back down,” Wells told the Dallas Morning News. “I got my tetanus shot. It was Jackie Butler, and he’s got gold teeth, so I got some gold fragments in my head now.”

Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail chris.beaven@cantonrep.com.