After suggesting for most of last season that he would retire once his contract expires next season, Kobe Bryant has suddenly changed his tune.
“I could easily see myself playing another three or four years,” he said on Brazilian television in a segment produced by Glenda Carqueijo (2:30 in the video).
Bryant had indicated he planned to let the Lakers’ front office his full intentions during the offseason, but he admitted during his exit interview last month that a season-ending torn left Achilles left him with a “curveball” on his plan. The wide perceptions remains, most vocally expressed by Lakers coach Phil Jackson, that he wants to ensure he could win seven NBA championships to eclipse Michael Jordan’s six.
Such a thought process supports the belief from Bryant’s trainer, Tim Grover, who said in an interview with this newspaper two months ago that Bryant’s physically capable of playing at least three more seasons. But Bryant has also stated that he has no desire to prolong his career with a diminished role.
Should Bryant play the 2013-14 season, there’s a few variables both the he and the Lakers would have to sort out. He would likely have to play at a reduced salary compared to the $30.5 million he makes this season if the Lakers are to maximize their hope of acquiring one or two free agents at a maximum player’s salary. But to what degree that would happen remains to be seen.
Part of that variable also hinges on when Bryant will return from his left Achilles tendon. He’s estimated a return in either November or December. Whether or not Bryant meets his timetable, there’s also the element on how relative his play may drop because of the severity of his injury.
All those questions will be answered later. For now, Bryant’s spent the past weekend in Brazil as part of his involvement with Nike. He visited with Hall-of-Famer Oscar Schmidt, who is recovering from brain surgery. Bryant and Schmidt judged a local dunk contest with Brazilian NBA players Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa. And Bryant attended Brazil’s 4-2 victory Saturday over Italy in the Confederations Cup quarterfinals.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org