NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Kobe targeting September return; Kupchak still back Bryant — The torn rotator cuff in Kobe Bryant’s right should was officially surgically repaired on Wednesday. With that out of the way, most are wondering when (or if) he’ll be back on the court for the L.A. Lakers. According to a report from ESPN.com, Bryant is aiming to play again in September and, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Bryant still has the full support of GM Mitch Kupchack.
Kobe Bryant addressed his expectations a day after shoulder surgery Thursday night in a brief interview with ESPN, saying he planned on being ready to play come September for the Los Angeles Lakers’ training camp.
“Yeah, that’s the plan,” Bryant said.
Bryant said his rehab over the next couple of months will involve “a lot of patience.”
“Sore, but it’s OK,” Bryant said of his shoulder.
Bryant said media opinion on whether he should return for a 20th season or retire wouldn’t affect his decision.
“I don’t really listen much to what people have to say to be honest with you,” Bryant said.
Bryant was back at the Staples Center for a brief visit with former teammate Pau Gasol before the Lakers faced the Chicago Bulls.
The former teammates spoke privately before Bryant left. Bryant said he wasn’t feeling well enough, 31 hours after the operation, to go on the court.
Bryant is expected to need nine months to recover from his third straight season-ending injury, a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder suffered last week that he had surgically repaired Wednesday.
If Bryant meets that timetable, he could return to basketball shortly before the start of the 2015-16 season, the final year of his contract with the Lakers.
Bryant, who will be 37 this summer, is the NBA’s highest-paid player at $23.5 million this season. He is under contract for $25 million next year.
And here’s Bresnahan on Kupchack talking about the Lakers’ future with Kobe and beyond:
Kobe Bryant was all smiles when he talked about his $48.5-million contract extension in November 2013, saying he would “run through a wall” for the Lakers to prove they were right and everybody who doubted them was wrong.
But were they right?
It’s a simple question that goes directly to the center of a struggling franchise and its rapidly aging megastar.
“One hundred percent. We have no regrets at all,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday.
“Because he’s worth every penny of it.”
Kupchak acknowledged that the Lakers, who ended a nine-game losing streak Thursday and are foundering with a 13-34 record, would need a talent upgrade next season. The catch: They have room for only one maximum-salaried player.
“To me, a big part of Kobe’s contribution next year is if we can improve this team during the off-season,” Kupchak said.
“Our coaches and players have been instructed to win games. Maybe I used the wrong word. I don’t have to ‘instruct’ the players to win games and try to win games. I don’t have to instruct [Coach] Byron [Scott]. That’s why they’re here.”
One player Kupchak expected to return next season was Bryant. It would be his 20th, all with the Lakers.
“I don’t think he’s retiring,” Kupchak said. “I spoke to him [Thursday] morning. The doctor’s prognosis was released yesterday and [Bryant] said he was looking forward to training camp. That’s what we expect.”