Mamba also speaks out on future of Dwight Howard.
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has revealed that he is still harbouring hopes of returning for the opening night of next season, as he continues his rehabilitation from a torn Achilles tendon.
Bryant has had his stitches removed, his cast taken off and has been building strength up in his leg for the last six weeks, giving renewed hope he will be ready for next year.
However, he appreciates there is a long road ahead to get back to full fitness and will take his rehab slowly and very seriously.
“I hope so. That’s the challenge. With the tendon there’s really only so much you can do. There’s a certain amount of time that they deem necessary for the tendon to heal where you don’t overstretch it and now you never get that spring back,” he told ESPNLosAngeles.com in an exclusive interview.
While the Mamba will continue to be busy with his recovery, he will also have a keen eye on events regarding Dwight Howard, who becomes a free agent on July 1.
Speculation suggests that the likes of the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are interested in acquiring D-12, but Bryant isn’t too worried about the outcome as he believes the Lakers franchise will continue to be competitive regardless.
“For me you kind of let him do his due diligence and then move in and talk to him and figure out if this is a place he wants to be. We all want him here.
“I’ll give him a little opening statement, but then I have to make sure I have the final word.”
However, if Howard does decide to move on after just a year in Los Angeles, Bryant is confident in the organisation hierarchy to make the right moves in order for them to make a run at a 17th championship next year.
“This franchise is a franchise that you really don’t have to worry about too much, because no matter what happens, whether it’s a year from now, two years from now, whatever the case may be, they’re always going to find a way to have an impact on this league,”
While there were initial suggestions that this injury could either end Bryant’s career or bring his retirement date forward, it is clear the 34-year-old has no immediate plans to leave the game.
However, he has one year remaining on his contract and has yet to commit beyond what will be his 18th season in the league. Nevertheless, he revealed he wouldn’t disclose his retirement prior to it happening so as to avoid a “farewell tour”.
Retirement talk aside, the Mamba is fully focused on getting healthy this off season in order to play a vital part for the Lakers next year, and he could be back as early as opening night.