Kobe Bryant shared plenty of concerns about the Lakers’ ownership.
The dynamic between Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss. The Lakers appearing to let former coach Phil Jackson take a front office job with the New York Knicks instead of having him serve a role with the purple and gold. The Lakers’ stated strategy in maximizing cap flexibility next season.
Bryant also has concerns about himself too, aware of the challenge he has ahead in healing a fractured left knee that will keep him out for the remainder of the season.
“That’s part of the challenge,” Bryant said. “You always have those question marks. You step into a big game and you don’t know if you’re going to shoot the ball well, you don’t know if you’re going to play well. You meet those challenges and having those concerns drives you that much more to make sure that that doesn’t happen. The self-doubt is there. It’s always been there. I think it’s really what we do about that self-doubt. You can really let it dominate you or you can choose to face it and take it head on.”
But as he’s done many times before with his numerous knee and ankle injuries, his concussion and his left Achilles tendon, Bryant vowed he won’t let those insecurities compromise his recovery.
“I don’t want to say I’ll be back at the top of my game because everybody is going to think I’m crazy, and it’s the old player not letting go sort-of-thing,’” the 35-year-old Bryant said. “But that’s what it’s going to be.”
It hasn’t been a fun process whatsoever for Bryant.
He spent eight months rehabbing the torn left Achilles tendon that he strained on April. 12, 2013, which kept him out of the Lakers’ final two regular season games and the first round of the playoffs. Bryant returned 19 games into the season. Bryant showed noticeable rust upon his return, but made marked improvement. He averaged 13.8 points on 42.5 percent shooting, 5.7 turnovers and 6.3 assists through six games, a far drop from his career 25.5 points on 45.4 percent shooting, three turnovers and 4.8 assists. But ever since colliding with Memphis guard Tony Allen on Dec. 17, 2014, Bryant hasn’t played in a game since. He has remained confined toward a stationary bike, though he said may begin running on a treadmill next week.
Bryant downplayed the potential benefit in playing games this season to gauge his progress versus having a full seven months to recover.
“I’ve been doing it for long enough, I think I know what I need to work on without squeezing in enough games,” Bryant said. “The biggest gpart at this stage in your career is really body maintenance and doing whatever you can to get the body strong enough and healthy enough so little knick-knack injuries don’t bother you for next season. When you have seven months to prepare and you get a chance to really ramp things up quite a bit and put a significant amount of load on your body, and see how your body reacts and then you can adjust to it. So you get a chance to mimic the workload you’re going to be facing in the upcoming season, which during a regular summer of two months or three months of training, you can’t do.”
Bryant feels pain elsewhere.
The Lakers (22-42) enter Thursday’s game in Oklahoma City (47-17) destined to miss the playoffs for only the fifth time in franchise history. When Bryant attends games, he often sits on the bench bearing both detached and painful expressions. Recently, he’s either watched games out of public view or stayed away from them completely.
“I feel like killing everybody every time I go to the arena,” he said. “I’m on edge all the time. I feel it. I feel it more than anyone in the organization. It drives me absolutely crazy.”
Still, Bryan maintained enough of a sense of humor to conclude his 10-minute press conference making light of the Lakers’ franchise-worst 48-point loss last week to the Clippers.
Said Bryant: “Now I know what it feels like to have been a Clippers fan over the years,”
*L.A. Daily News sports columnist Jill Painter contributed to this report.
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