From The Detroit News archives: Kobe Bryant nixed 2007 trade to Pistons
Editor's note: In 2007, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant nixed a trade to the Pistons, as reported by Yahoo! Sports in 2013, and then confirmed by then-Pistons beat writer Vincent Goodwill. Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday. Goodwill now writes for Yahoo! Sports. Here is that story from Feb. 19, 2013.
Kobe Bryant a Piston?
It could've happened before the 2007-08 season, if Bryant would've waived his no-trade clause, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Pistons and Lakers, owned by the late Dr. Jerry Buss, agreed in principle on a deal, and Bryant wanted out of Los Angeles, but Detroit wasn't one of his preferred destinations.
A source confirmed the Pistons and Lakers agreed on a deal, which most likely included Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Amir Johnson and a future first-round pick for Bryant, who wound up being the 2007-08 MVP.
Another league source said former Piston Grant Hill, who was a free agent that summer as a member of the Orlando Magic, would've likely returned to the Pistons to fill Prince's void at small forward.
It makes sense on a number of levels.
Bryant was visibly frustrated with the direction of the Lakers for a few years before reaching a breaking point, asking for a trade after the Lakers were bounced from the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season — essentially wasting his prime individual years.
Bryant averaged 35.4 and 31.6 points, respectively, in the previous two seasons, his highest marks as a pro.
The Pistons, two years removed from their last NBA Finals appearance, were defeated in the last two conference finals by one-man virtuoso shows (Dwyane Wade in 2006, LeBron James in 2007) and obviously, Pistons President Joe Dumars wanted to make a splash to revitalize his veteran team.
James' personal tour de force against the Pistons, led by his historic Game 5 where he beat the Pistons on his own had many wondering if the Pistons' brew had gotten stale — and certainly the acquisition of the league's best player would've changed their identity.
It would've left Bryant to play with Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and possibly Hill, who wound up signing with the Phoenix Suns because they could offer him a starting spot the Pistons couldn't.
Hill recovered from his debilitating ankle injuries to become a good starter on a young Magic team that featured third-year center Dwight Howard. He averaged around 14 points and four rebounds from 2006-08, and his presence would've been valuable. Hill has said previously he has considered a return to Detroit, having played the best ball of his career as a Piston from 1994-2000, but said he didn't want to be a shell of himself as a Piston, preferring to keep his memories as an all-world player intact.
Perhaps the lure of going for a ring would've changed his feelings.
The Boston Celtics were forming their big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and the two sides met in the conference finals that spring, with the Celtics winning in six games before beating Bryant and the Lakers in the Finals.
After Bryant rescinded his trade demand, it led to the Lakers acquiring Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies near the trade deadline for Kwame Brown, and they were fixtures in June for the next few seasons.
Bryant and Buss' relationship was obviously close, as it paid off to the tune of two more titles for the Lakers and Bryant cementing himself as perhaps the franchise's greatest player.
For Pistons fans, perhaps it's fun to wonder "what if".