SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, saying he does not want uncertainty over his future to drag through 2013-14 and with the possibility of being offered an extension this offseason, will “in all likelihood” make a decision in the summer over whether to retire after one more season.
While re-affirming that he is leaning toward walking away after an 18th campaign, Bryant made it clear in an interview with NBA.com he expects to make a call before reporting to training camp and probably even long before that. One factor in the decision is the chance to end all the endless questions. Another is to give the Lakers clarity moving forward, in general, and particularly in conjunction with any contract talks that may take place.
“We’ll talk,” Bryant said after piling up 19 points, 14 assists against one turnover and nine rebounds while playing all but 23 seconds of the 103-98 victory over the Kings at Sleep Train Arena. “I’ll talk to my family and stuff and really see if I want to continue to sacrifice as much as I’m sacrificing right now. I’m putting my body through a lot to just try to get ready to play every single night. To do what I’m doing right now, it’s not easy. I’ll tell you, it’s taken a lot of commitment.”
Is your sense that next season will be your last?
“As I sit here right now, yeah.”
Is there anything the Lakers can say that would make it more likely you played beyond next season?
“No,” Bryant told NBA.com. “It’s my decision. It’s really about what I want to do, if I want to train and be psychotic with my training. That’s what it comes down to. It’s really how I’m feeling physically.”
Speaking of Saturday in Sacramento. It was only two days before that Bryant was hobbling out of the locker room in Milwaukee with one crutch supporting a very painful left foot, the result of a bone spur. It was another ominous moment for the team that had battled injuries all season.
He saw a foot specialist after the Lakers arrived here Friday, with enough encouraging feedback that Bryant was listed as probable for what could be his final appearance in Sacramento after years of contentious battles with the Kings. And then he pretty much played the entire game.
Bryant came out for the first time with 22.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter. He went back in for the start of the fourth period and didn’t leave again.
“I thought that was the key, the 23 seconds,” coach Mike D’Antoni deadpanned. “He’d have been tired.”
D‘Antoni was asked if he stayed with Bryant so long to keep the foot loose.
“Sounds good,” he said. “I’ll use that one. My decision mostly is he’s not coming out. He makes it easy for me.”
So it was a basketball decision.
“It was his heart,” D’Antoni said. “He said, ‘I’m not coming out.’ Hey, he’s earned the right. Nobody can tell what he has inside of him. And he has a lot.”
Steve Nash, meanwhile, remains a concern. After initially being listed as questionable with a sore hip, he played the first 1:48, came out, and did not return. The Lakers say he is day-to-day with a sore right hamstring, an injury related to the hip.