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Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Bryant a no-show in Philly against coach’s wishes

February 6, 2004

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— Kobe Bryant defied his coach Thursday night and did not join the Los Angeles Lakers in Philadelphia, leaving the team unsure of his whereabouts when they arrived to play the 76ers.

Bryant's agent later informed the Lakers that Bryant would join them in Orlando, the fifth stop of the Lakers' seven-game road trip.

In Cleveland a day earlier, coach Phil Jackson originally said Bryant would join the team in Orlando -- in part to spare him from being the target of taunts from fans in Philadelphia.

But Jackson later changed his mind and said Bryant, on the injured list because of a lacerated index finger, would join the Lakers in Philadelphia.

Jackson said Bryant was supposed to be on a plane from Los Angeles that was to arrive between 4 and 5 p.m, but no one on the Lakers had heard from him by the time Jackson addressed reporters at 6 p.m. -- 90 minutes before tipoff.

"It's good for him to be with us here. He can have a couple days to be with us in this situation, join his teammates, see how we're playing, see firsthand what we're going through right now as far as the way we're playing the game," Jackson said. "He's supportive, and his teammates are supportive of him, so it's kind of a catch-up point."

Bryant, who attended high school in a local suburb, has been the target of boos and taunts in Philadelphia since the Lakers and 76ers met in the 2001 NBA Finals. The booing was worst during the 2002 All-Star game.

"I think being booed is the ultimate sign of respect," said teammate Shaquille O'Neal, who quizzed reporters on whether Bryant had shown up.

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