A day after Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery to repair his torn right rotator cuff, general manager Mitch Kupchak stated that he expects him to return next season, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
It has been a difficult last two seasons for Bryant, who has suffered three significant injuries that have forced him to miss a major portion of games over that stretch. Last year, he played in just six games due to a torn left Achilles tendon, and a fracture in his left knee.
Even with all that in mind, Kupchak still believes that Bryant will return for his 20th season, which is also last year of his two-year, $48.5 million contract that he signed two Novembers ago.
“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.”
It was heavily speculated that the 36-year-old could possibly retire given the circumstances that he has had difficulty staying on the court this season.
He had showed early signs that his body wasn’t responding the way it had in the past, which affected his play on the court as he shot a career-low .373 percent from the field. Head coach Byron Scott had also decided to sit Bryant for seven games (including three straight) in order to help maintain his health for the long haul of the season.
Despite all that, Kupchak still holds the belief that Bryant will be back for another season, and be ready in time for training camp. This fits the time frame of the expected nine-month period that it will take for him to fully recover from the injury.
Along those lines, it is also expected that Bryant will be involved in the team’s offseason plans by helping recruit free agents to the team with a projected $25 million in cap space at their disposal. The 18-year veteran has already been on record stating that he won’t stop recruiting All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo until he signs a contract this upcoming summer.
With Bryant expected to be back in the fold next season, it will give fans a chance to see him play for at least one more year.
Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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