I think we can read between the lines by now and realize that Kobe Bryant wants to go to the Bulls and nowhere else. With Bryant dangling the no-trade clause in the air, he is indeed the architect of the deal. He won't go for a trade that depletes the Bulls of talent to the point where they can't win a title. His goal is to broker a trade to Chicago where the Bulls give up next to nothing for him. That's definitely what John Paxson wants too. The only roadblock is Laker management, as they insist on taking all the goodies from the Bulls for their main event superstar. My point is that it is 2 against 1. Eventually Buss is going to buckle and just give Kobe what he wants in order to be rid of him. Sure he and Kupchak will be forever villified for dealing both Bryant and O'Neal for a net loss in the trades, but I think it is inevitable that you will take a loss when top talent leaves your organization. Reinsdorf and Krause are credited with breaking up the Bulls dynasty and once that happened the Bulls plummeted to the bottom of the NBA for a while. What makes the Lakers so special that they cannot commit to rebuilding? Even if they got the trade they wanted for Kobe they would not be good enough to make it out of the 2nd round at best. If they pull the trigger on the trade, they have to start over and at this point they are just going to shake their heads and live with it. The only conceivable way for the Lakers to return to the NBA Finals in the next 5 years is to deal Kobe and rebuild. No one wants to come to LA and play with a disgruntled Bryant and the Lakers don't have enough talent to bring in someone big anyway. If they trade Kobe they can reorganize their roster to get under the salary cap and try and sign Gilbert Arenas in the off-season and try their hand at the draft. If they don't make the trade they'll simply go out in the first round again the next two years and then see Kobe walk out on them and leave the Lakers a perreneal lottery team. The management brought this situation on themselves; they knew Kobe was tempermental but they kept poking him with a stick. They are in a no win situation right now and making a deal is the lesser of two evils.
So here is the perfect trade from the Chicago side. We'll work under the assumption that neither Paxson nor Bryant would accept a deal that sent Luol Deng to the Lakers. In order to meet salary cap restrictions the Bulls have to deal one of their top two salaries. The guy they should really push the Lakers into accepting at this point is Ben Wallace. LA won't want to go for it, but if they do some selling they can pull it off. Send the Lakers Ben Wallace, Ben Gordon and Thabo Sefolosha, along with one or two future draft picks and a jobber to be named later. The Laker fans will surely chide this deal as a complete rip off, but this is one of the few deals that would actually make Bryant happy, a necessary ingredient to make the trade happen. This would give the Bulls a line-up of Bryant, Hinrich, Deng, Thomas, Noah, Nocioni, Duhon and Smith. That's a championship contender that would be a HUGE favorite to win the east and perhaps the whole thing. The way to sell this deal at the negotiating table is that Bryant is not exactly a spring chicken himself at 29 and the Bulls won't give up all their younger talent in exchange for him. By accepting this deal the Lakers would be getting a veteran team leader in Wallace and two young guards to fill out their roster. With this line-up the Lakers would probably get just as far as they would with keeping Bryant. I really doubt the Lakers could ever be swagglefoosted like that, but it's worth a try. The only other feasible trade would involve surrendering Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon, Victor Khryapa, and Adrian Griffin. That's a lot of players to unload for just one, and would leave the Bulls with almost no guards besides Bryant. The key to the deal from the Bulls side is convincing the Lakers to accept Ben Wallace. A few months ago I was in favor of keeping him, but now that the Bulls have Joakim Noah, Wallace is expendable if it means getting the NBA's best player. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the Bulls still have a pretty good chance to win the east with their existing line-up, which means that they can afford to play hardball with Jerry Buss if Kobe keeps needling him to make the deal with Chicago.
It is my opinion that Buss cannot keep Bryant anymore if he wants the Lakers to be competitive long term. Make the deal Buss. Laker fans will hate you if you trade Bryant and stink for a little while or if you keep him and let him opt out in two years and then stink for a very long time. You might as well get it over with.