Before settling into his seat in front of a horde of microphones and cameras, Kobe Bryant entered the Lakers’ media room on a scooter.
It personified his progress as he’s slowly but surely progressed from a season-ending torn left Achilles. Nearly 2 ½ weeks have passed since suffering what he described as a “sneaky injury”, which kept him out of the season and dashed the Lakers’ championship fortunes. Since then, he’s gone from crutches to wearing a walking boot and had his stitches removed on Wednesday. He’ll likely remain immobilized for at least another two weeks. And the Lakers expect him to return within six to nine months.
But for a player who averaged 27.3 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting and six assists despite injuries, heavy minutes and Father Time creeping up, Bryant sounded confident he can return for the Lakers’ season opener beginning late October. He also sounded optimistic about the big picture.
“We could win a championship,” Bryant said.
But there’s some uncertainty.
Bryant sounded unsure whether he’ll retire from a storied 18-year career after his $30.3 million contract expires in the 2013-14 season.
“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “My Achilles kind of threw me a curve ball”
There’s some more curveballs.
With the Lakers’ losing in the first round for the first time since 2007, Bryant remained adamant that the Lakers’ front office will need to make some changes. Bryant listed the needs as “length, speed and athleticism.”
First item on the agenda: Bryant wants the Lakers to re-sign Dwight Howard so miuch that he plans to invite him to his Newport Beach residence. Bryant sounded optimistic Howard’s feelings are mutual.
“We all pride ourselves on being businessman,” Bryant said. “From a business standpoint, it makes more sense.”
Bryant also wants Pau Gasol to stay on the team. The Lakers may waive Gasol’s $19.3 million salary through the amnesty provision or through a trade. But Bryant sounded adamant Gasol would need to stay to secure his sixth NBA championship. After all, Gasol played a key part helping Bryant in 2009 and 2010 to win the last two of his five NBA championships.
“I want Pau here,” Bryant said. “It’s not a question or discussion. He gives us the best chance to win titles.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org