Phil Jackson gushed on how “remarkable” it is that Kobe Bryant could return as early as November, a mere 6 1/2 months after suffering a season-ending torn left Achilles tendon. The former Lakers coach also sounded the alarm, stressing Bryant’s effectiveness largely hinges on “as long as he doesn’t over do it.”
Amid Jackson mix of optimism and skepticism surrounding Bryant’s recovery lies a powerful motivation that Jackson believes largely has fueled his recovery.
“His goal is another championship,” Jackson said Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Media sponsored event at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles that honored the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss. “He also has a chance to replace Michael Jordan in the all time scoring list. Those are two goals with the first one being a championship that Kobe would like to accomplish.”
Both would have tied for six NBA titles. Bryant, who ranks fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 31,617 points, only needs to score 675 more points to surpass Michael Jordan. Both milestones would bring further conversation to the never-ending debate between Bryant and Jordan.
Jackson recently contributed to that conversation in his newly released memoir titled “Eleven Rings.” Jackson considered Jordan a better defender, a more accurate shooter and more able to get more out of his teammates. Still, Jackson largely praised both players for their ability to play through injuries, their competitiveness, scoring and evolving leadership. He offered
There was one exception where Bryant had the edge.
Jackson praised Bryant for treating his body “like a finely tuned European sports car,” while saying Jordan was “less regimented” and noted his joy for cigars and wine.
“It’s to be seen how well he recovers from the operation,” Jackson said. “Odds are and the belief is it will be very soon in November, which is remarkable. We saw Chauncey (Billups) last year and he had a lot of problems. Kobe’s got that determination and as long as he doesn’t over do it, he’ll come back.”
But for how long?
Bryant’s under contract for one more year worth $30.5 million. He hasn’t said publicly whether he will retire at that point. But Bryant acknowledged his latest injury throwing a curveball into whether he’d want to prolong his career. With the Lakers falling in a first-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs, it’s likely Bryant will want to extend his career out of hopes of winning more titles.
“The loss of him in the game will be tremendous for LA people and for the NBA because he’s been such an outstanding performer but it happens,” Jackson said. “That’s what happens with players. We watch them come and go. We revel in their high times and we mourn the times they have to leave the game and I certainly will when he does.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org