Kupchak confident that Bryant will not retire early…
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Kobe definitely coming back next year: Reports claim he is not considering retirement.
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has insisted that he expects veteran guard Kobe Bryant to return from injury and feature for the team next season.
Bryant underwent surgery on his right shoulder on Wednesday to fix a torn rotator cuff, and the initial timetable for his recovery is expected to see him sidelined for nine months.
While that would mean he would return just in time for training camp, there have been suggestions that the injury woes he has faced over the past three years could force him to re-think his future.
However, Kupchak is confident that Bryant will be back for one last year before calling time on a glittering playing career with the franchise.
“I don’t think he’s retiring,” Kupchak said Thursday after the Lakers’ shootaround. “He said he’s looking forward to training camp. That’s what we expect.”
Bryant will turn 37 this summer and will remain the highest-paid player in the NBA at $23.5m this season while his contract will see him receive $25m next season, his 20th in the league.
Kupchak also moved to shoot down suggestions that the veteran’s heavy workload at the start of the season was the reason for his body breaking down again, while he also outlined his plans for next year.
“I think a big key will be [that] we have to improve the talent level on the team.”
He added, “As you get older and you experience injuries in this league — and he’s played what will be 20 years — it’s difficult to play when you’re going to lose three or four games or five games.
“When you’re winning games, it’s a lot easier to get ready to play and play through aches and pains. To me, a big part of Kobe’s contribution next year is if we can improve this team during the offseason.”
Kupchak also defended the contract that the Lakers gave Bryant and insisted that they have no regrets as the franchise legend is “worth every penny”.