Kobe Bryant certainly hinted more than once he might hang it up after next season.
However did you really think a guy that competitive would walk away? Now his Achilles tendon injury oddly makes it more likely he will return.
Kobe does not want his final image on the court to be him slowed because of an injury. So he may come back for a season or two after his current contract expires next summer. That’s what he hinted at with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio (as transcribed by Eric Pincus at the Los Angeles Times). The question was about Tim Duncan possibly getting a fifth ring.
“My goal is to win more than five,” said Bryant. “If he does win five, hopefully that pushes our organization upstairs to be even more determined and more driven to make the necessary expenses to make sure we continue the next year and the year after that.”
The Lakers would gladly welcome Kobe back for a year or two more, although he would have to take a Tim Duncan/Kevin Garnett pay cut to return.
Of course, the other question is “does Dwight Howard want him back?” If Howard does return to the Lakers, would a somewhat slowed Kobe (you’re not quite the same player at his age after this surgery) be willing to cede some of the power on the team to Howard? Can they co-exist? Because if the Lakers are going to win a ring for Kobe in the next couple years they are going to need Howard and some other pieces to stay healthy and contribute.
Just something to watch as the Lakers head into the summer of 2014. The only guys that would be on the payroll for the Lakers that year would be Steve Nash and potentially Howard. It’s a chance for the Lakers to reshape the roster. But they would have to deal with Kobe early because he is a massive cap hold under the CBA that could mess with their plans.