CHICAGO — For once, Kobe Bryant emerged from the trainer’s room and out with reporters delving very little about his recovery.
After all, Bryant had spoken a mere four days ago in Boston about how he’s rehabbing his fractured left leg performing bike drills and won’t receive an MRI until early February. So instead, Bryant dished on a wide-range of topics ranging from his refusal to play in the 2016 Olympics, why he doesn’t feel deserving to play in the 2016 NBA All-Star game and his wish for the NBA to return to the rugged style it employed in the 1980’s.
But first things first. With the Lakers (16-25) entering tonight’s game against the Chicago Bulls (19-20) at United Center winning two consecutive games in the month, the purple and gold currently rests in 13th place in the Western Conference. Could the Lakers make the playoffs?
“I have no clairvoyant powers whatsoever,” said Bryant, though it should be noted he always voiced optimism last season the Lakers would make the playoffs. The Lakers closed out the season 28-12 to finish as a seventh seed before losing in the first round in San Antonio.
Bryant’s return will obviously help the Lakers’ cause. But he said his return remains “up in the air.” Is he just as uncertain about how he’ll play?
“Zero,” Bryant said. “There was before I came back the first time because I didn’t know how my Achilles would respond to changing direction. The game in Memphis, I had a pretty good feel and felt like I was getting back to what I normally do. I feel pretty confident. I did play that second half on a fractured leg. I like my chances.”
Bryant also voiced optimism for Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who remains sidelined with a right meniscus injury after spending all of last season rehabbing a torn ACL.
“It’s unfortunate,” Bryant said. But you have two options. One is to lay down and not do anything about it. The second is to get up and get to work. The second one is more appealing to him for sure.”
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who will serve as an assistant for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, hoped he has some chance in convincing Bryant to compete for his third consecutive gold medal.
“You always try to talk him into it,” Thibodeau said, chuckling. “I haven’t had a chance yet. I know they think highly of him and what he’s done and all these guys coming off injuries, they’ll weight whether they want to continue on. A guy like that, his leadership and fact he’s been through all situations is a big plus for any time.”
Bryant immediately vowed he won’t return after winning gold in the 2012 London games. Despite signing a two-year extension worth $48.5 million that will keep him under contract through the 2015-16 season, Bryant held firm.
“Nope, I’ll go and spectate,” Bryant said. “I think I’d rather watch Pau [Gasol] win another silver” with the Spanish national team.
Bryant also held firm that he doesn’t sound thrilled about playing in the 2014 NBA All-Star game Feb. 16 in New Orleans even if he returns before then. After averaging 13.8 points on 42.5 percent shooting, 6.3 assists and 5.7 turnovers through six games, Bryant suggested he doesn’t deserve appearing in what would be his 16th All-Star appearance. The final returns on the NBA All-Star ballot ended Monday night, and will likely feature Bryant as a starter.
“I’ve always looked forward toward playing in All-star games and that’s something that’s a huge honor,” Bryant said. “I haven’t played [much] this year. Some of the younger guys that have been performing, doing extremely well and are All Star worthy should be the ones out there playing.”
Bryant also voiced his dislike on how the NBA has become more of a “finesse” game and employs “small ball,” a philosophy Bryant conceded Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni largely speaheaded. Bryant voiced his preference for the rugged style played in the 1980’s NBA. Bryant also insisted the harsher rules hadn’t made much an impact in prolonging his 18-year NBA career.
“I like smash mouth old school basketball,” Bryant said. “That’s what I grew up watching. It’s much less physical. Some of the flagrant fouls I see called nowadays makes me nauseous. You can’t touch a guy without it being a flagrant foul. I see some of the negatives too.”
Can the game revert back to the past?
“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “Kids might be too sensitive for that nowadays.”
Bryant also advocated abolishing the “one-and-done” rule that requires players to attend at least one year of college before going to the NBA. Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James jumped from high school to the NBA before the rule was implemented in 2005.
“I’m always a firm believer of us being able to make our decisions, especially as it pertains to going out, working and having a job,” Bryant said. “I believe you should be able to go out and make your own choices.”
And that’s why Bryant said he will stay involved with basketball whenever he retires, though he hardly went into specifics beyond knocking down becoming involved in media.
“It’s in my blood,” Bryant said. “I’ll be involved in some capacity. This is who I am.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org