So idling on the bench for most of what turned out to be the Los Angeles Lakers’ worst season ever apparently hasn’t made Kobe Bryant want to push himself even harder.
The NBA star himself has not yet set a formal timeline for his retirement, but Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has now said twice in the last six months that Bryant will likely pack it in after the 2015-2016 season.
“He has indicated to me that this is it,” Kupchak told Rick Fox and Jared Greenberg on Thursday during an interview on Sirius XM NBA Radio, per ESPN. “I think first and foremost he’s in the last year of a deal. There have been no discussions about anything going forward and I don’t think there will be.”
Speaking of indications…
“All indications are, to me, from him, that this [two-year, $ 48 million deal] is going to be it,” Kupchak also told NBA.com in December, after Bryant had been forced to pull the plug on a season early due to injury for the second year in a row. “If somebody’s thinking of buying a ticket three years from now to see Kobe play, I would not do that. Don’t wait. Do it this year.”
And for any players who may not want to share the court with Bryant next year for whatever reason…then who needs ya?!
“If somebody doesn’t want to play with Kobe, whether it’s this year or he decides to come back another year…If there is a player out there like that, that won’t come here for that reason, then we don’t want him,” Kupchak said yesterday. “Every great player is demanding, focused, and if you don’t want to play for a guy like him that’s driven to do nothing but win championships and work hard, then you shouldn’t be here. You should be someplace else.”
Bryant will turn 37 in August.
“A year from now, if there’s something different to discuss, then it will be discussed then,” Kupchak added with regard to the 17-time All-Star playing beyond next season. “I talk to him from time to time…and he is recovering. He’s running. He’s getting movement and strength in the shoulder. We expect a full recovery, but yeah, he’s much closer to the end than to the beginning.”
Noting that a so-called farewell tour, like the one that accompanied Derek Jeter everywhere he went last year in his final season with the Yankees, could put Bryant in “an awkward position” should he end up wanting to stick around, Kupchak assured that the man who remains their biggest draw on and off the road would be “recognized appropriately with great gratitude when it is time.”
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