EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Kobe Bryant is a free man -- and the Los Angeles Lakers are his team. Shaquille O'Neal, Derek Fisher, Gary Payton and Karl Malone are gone, leaving Bryant as Showtime's lone superstar.
''This is my team to lead,'' Bryant said Monday, a day before the Lakers open training camp in San Diego. ''Shaq was the focal point of the team. Now it's different. Guys are looking to me for leadership, so it's important that I establish what type of team we're going to be.''
Bryant got a jump on that by phoning each of his teammates, a group including nine new players, during the summer. Most of the team has been working out together informally for the last few weeks.
''He has done a great job with his leadership. He's been a connector of the team,'' said new coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who received several calls from Bryant wanting to talk basketball.
Most clubs held their media days on Monday, with camps scheduled to open on Tuesday.
Bryant wasn't the only player drawing attention around the NBA.
Vince Carter arrived in Toronto, and Payton showed up with his new team -- the Boston Celtics -- ending questions whether they would report to their clubs on time.
Bryant is beginning this season with his focus squarely on basketball and not the felony sexual assault case that shadowed him throughout the past year.
Teammate Devean George said there hasn't been a noticeable change in Bryant's demeanor from last season.
''He was happy last year,'' George said. ''He did a good job of keeping things separate. He never brought it here. He's been the same happy guy.''
Bryant's off-court troubles haven't tarnished him in the eyes of new teammate Lamar Odom, who's known Bryant for eight years.
''Nothing has changed. He's a good person,'' said Odom, who came from Miami in the O'Neal trade after starting his NBA career with the Clippers.
The charge against Bryant was dismissed last month at his accuser's request, but he still faces a civil lawsuit filed in Denver by the woman.
Gary Payton was acquired in an offseason trade with the Lakers and wasn't happy about it.
The 36-year-old guard didn't want to play in Boston or move his family from the West Coast. He missed an Aug. 13 deadline for his physical, but he didn't let that keep him from reporting for the opening of camp in Vermont.
Vince Carter plans to play hard for the Raptors, even though he still wants out of Toronto.
''It's stupid for me to come up here, and just because I want a trade I'm going to mope and pout. That's dumb,'' Carter said.
Carter asked during the summer to be traded but the Raptors are hoping the All-Star guard changes his mind.
''I have a job to do. I'm coming here to play and win for whatever it says on my jersey,'' said Carter, who will earn $12 million this season. ''It says Toronto Raptors, well then I'm going to perform for the Toronto Raptors.''
Los Angeles' other NBA team exercised its contract option on forward Chris Wilcox and signed free agents Trajan Langdon and Kaniel Dickens.
That might help offset the loss of guard Marko Jaric, who is expected to miss at least two weeks because of a broken left thumb sustained during informal workouts last month.
Langdon, who starred at Duke with current teammates Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, spent last season playing in Turkey.
Point guard T.J. Ford isn't fully recovered from spinal surgery and will miss training camp.
Ford was leading rookies in assists and was ninth overall in the NBA on Feb. 24 when he landed on his tailbone. He missed the rest of the season and underwent surgery in May.
''Of course, I would like to be in training camp, but my health is the most important thing,'' he said Monday. ''I'm not feeling 100 percent yet. I was hoping that I would be ready by now, but I'm not.''
There is no timetable for his return.
''I don't want to risk a chance coming back and getting re-injured,'' Ford said. ''I don't think I'm facing a situation of not being able to come back at all. I think at some point I will be able to play basketball again, but when I'm not sure.''
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