So many unanswered questions surround Kobe Bryant’s future.
The most pressing: the results surrounding his surgery on Wednesday to treat a torn right rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Bryant was scheduled to have surgery at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, but the Lakers won’t have the results until likely in the afternoon. Then, the Lakers are expected to know officially that Bryant will not play for the remainder of the 2014-15 season.
“In my mind he’s coming back next year,” Scott said, “unless he tells me something different.”
So with the expectation that Bryant will play in final year of his contract that will pay him $25 million, how does Scott envision his role will become next season?
“For Kobe, play him at mid to low 20’s minute wise,” Scott said. “But you have to have some horses to be able to do that.”
Scott originally pledged to play Bryant between 30 to 40 minutes per game during the 2014-15 season. But after the 36-year-old Bryant averaged 35.4 minutes per game in the Lakers’ first 27 contests, Scott scaled back Bryant’s’ workload in hopes to improve his energy and shooting accuracy. Bryant sat in eight of the next 16 contests and missed most practices and shootarounds. Bryant then aggravated his right shoulder in last week’s loss to New Orleans, and has missed the last three games since. Add it all up, and Bryant averaged 22.3 points on a career-low 37.3 percent shooting.
Although Scott offered his initial estimate on Bryant’s playing time next season, he understandably sounded hesitant on outlining his future plans.
“A lot of it depends on what guys we bring in as well,” Scott said, alluding to the free agency in July. “I got to wait until August until we have a good idea of what we’ve brought in and who we bring back. Then, we go from there.”
The Lakers will have about $24 million to spend, roughly enough to offer a maximum-salary contract to one play. The Lakers also only have Bryant, Julius Randle, Nick Young and Ryan Kelly under guaranteed contracts, leaving the Lakers with as many as 11 roster spots to fill. Hence, why Scott considered Bryant’s health “super important” in attracting potential stars. Scott added that Bryant will “absolutely” play in active part in recruiting free agents.
Scott has often praised Bryant for overcoming two serious injuries in the past three seasons. After shattering his left Achilles tendon on April, 2013, Bryant returned eight months later. Yet, he only lasted six games before fracturing his left knee and staying sidelined for the rest of the 2013-14 season. In his 19th NBA season, Bryant lasted only 35 games.
So even if Bryant has proven he can return from injury, how concerned does Scott feel about Bryant’s body breaking down?
“I don’t have concern right now,” Scott said. “We obviously have to wait until it’s all done and we go through the rehab and all that and see how he feels. The biggest thing with Kobe is as long as you guys are saying that he’s done, he’s going to come back. That’s the biggest thing with him. He proved this year that he has a lot left in the tank and is still one of the best players in this league. If you guys keep saying he’s done, that’ll help him as well.”
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