Teammates confident in Kobe Bryant before LA Lakers training camp

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant didn’t practice Tuesday in Phoenix and may not play in today’s game in New Orleans to preserve his 36-year-old body. Hans Gutknecht ‑ Staff Photographer

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was cleared for practice earlier this month after tearing his rotator cuff in January. Hans Gutknecht ‑ Staff Photographer

Lakers rookie Larry Nance Jr. called Kobe Bryant’s mere presence in the room at the Lakers’ media day on Monday “electrifying.”

Bryant commanded the attention of a gym’s worth of reporters, and the 37-year-old was a primary topic of conversation in interviews with other Lakers players as well as he prepares for his 20th NBA season.

Bryant was cleared for practice earlier this month after suffering a right shoulder injury in January. His teammates haven’t seen him in action on the court yet, but they expressed nothing by confidence in Bryant.

“It’s Kobe,” center Tarik Black said. “You know he’s been in the gym. He’s put up a million shots. He’s probably in better shape than even myself. He’s probably going to be able to outrun me because that’s Kobe and that’s what he does.”

Despite his teammates’ confidence, Bryant expressed uncertainty about the upcoming season. He’s coming off two injury-plagued seasons, and this could possibly be his last year. If it is indeed Bryant’s last, guard Nick Young believes it’s going to be a good one.

“I always say he got one last hurrah,” Young said. “Look at Ray Lewis, he went out with a championship. Brett Favre. I always say every great player gets one last hurrah. Hopefully this is it.”

Bryant’s return and possible retirement is one of the dominating storylines of the upcoming season for the Lakers. Even if questions surrounding Bryant’s potential farewell tour end up overshadowing other parts of the season, Nance thinks the five-time NBA champion deserves the attention.

“He’s one of the greatest to ever do it,” Nance said. “For some people to think this is going to be his last tour, I don’t know, but he’s deserved that limelight. And I’m just happy to be here with him.”

Reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, who signed with the Lakers in the offseason after a year with the Toronto Raptors, said he is also looking forward to playing alongside Bryant this season.

“Obviously, Kobe’s going to go down as a Hall of Famer when it’s all said and done,” Williams said. “To have an opportunity to share a locker room with him and try to create something special with it, I just look forward to the opportunity.”