Kobe Bryant has vowed he won’t sit out the rest of the season. Even if it helps the Lakers draft position. Even if Bryant’s absence gives him more time to heal his 35-year-old body. Bryant said he wants to play if he’s able.
It might not matter anyway.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak expressed uncertainty Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo on whether Bryant would appear in any of the remaining 28 games, including when the Lakers (18-36) host the Boston Celtics (19-36) tonight at Staples Center.
“We’re hopeful that he can get back on the court at some point and do that,” Kupchak said. “We’re not going to push him to get back. I don’t see why you would. We’ve made a commitment to him for two more years.”
Kupchak was referring to the Lakers granting Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million extension shortly before he rehabbed his left Achilles tendon and returned to the court. Bryant then appeared in six games, averaging 13.8 points on 42.5 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 5.7 turnovers in 29.5 minutes per game. But Bryant has sat out for the past nine weeks after fracturing his left knee.
Bryant didn’t see Lakers team doctor Steve Lombardo on Wednesday as originally planned considering he still has soreness and swelling in his knee. Thus far, Bryant has stayed confined toward stationary bike exercises. Whenever he receives medical clearance to practice, the Lakers expect that process to take a couple of weeks before Bryant actually plays in a game.
“If he feels he’s ready and he’s in shape and he gets the doctor’s approval,” Kupchak said, “then there’s no reason why he couldn’t do that.”
Still, even with the uncertainty surrounding Bryant’s possible return this season, Kupchak stayed firm on how he’ll look next season.
“There’s really no reason why anyone should speculate as to whether or not Kobe can get back next year at a high level,” Kupchak said. “I think the bigger challenge is his age. But he’s shown over the years that he can adjust his game to his age. He’s just changed … Based on what I saw the last week before he injured his knee, I was completely confident that the Achilles injury was going to have no play in his effectiveness.”
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