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Kobe Bryant was selected well before the Los Angeles Lakers took their turn in the NBA draft. Indications are the high school star may still be wearing a Lakers uniform when the 1996-97 season begins.

At age 17, Bryant became the youngest player picked Wednesday night when the Charlotte Hornets made him the 13th overall selection. Shortly thereafter, however, rumors of a trade were flying, and Lakers vice-president of basketball operations Jerry West did little to discourage them.The same went for Bob Bass, West's counterpart with Charlotte.

"We think he's an incredible prospect," West said of Bryant, a 6-foot-6, 200-pounder from Lower Merion, Pa., whose father, Joe, played in the NBA. "We have talked to (the Hornets). There's some interest on their part, but we have no deal yet.

"This guy is not a typical 17-year-old kid, he's just not. There's so many things that have to go on (for a trade to be completed)."

Meanwhile, the Lakers took unheralded point guard Derek Fisher of Arkansas-Little Rock, who figures to serve as a backup to Nick Van Exel next season, with the 24th pick of the first round.

The Lakers have six free agents on their roster - starting forward Elden Campbell and five reserves including guards Sedale Threatt and Frankie King, the team's only draft pick last summer. It's believed the only untouchable among the players under contract is guard Eddie Jones.

"We've had everyone mentioned, they've almost gone through our whole roster," West said of reported deals involving the Lakers. "We'll find out (if a deal goes through) some time in the future."

Among those who could be involved are starting forward Cedric Ceballos, reserve guard Anthony Peeler, and starting center Vlade Divac.

Marc Fleisher, Divac's agent, told the Los Angeles Times his client would retire rather than play for the Hornets. Fleisher said Bass "is aware of his decision to retire. And if (Bass) does it, he does it at his own risk."

Lakers coach Del Harris said he was "impressed more than I can say" with Bryant, who was one of 14 players the Lakers worked out before the draft.

"He was very impressive," Harris said. "It was rather stunning to see what he could do as a 17-year-old young man. The irony of it is I coached his dad. This would be the first one I'd coached, father and son."

West has made it clear the team is interested in pursuing the free agent market, but he's not allowed to talk to our about potential free agents on other teams until next Monday.

Certainly high on the list is Orlando center Shaquille O'Neal. The Magic have made it clear they want to re-sign O'Neal.