Kobe Bryant was in a good mood — of course if you just signed a new $48.5 million contract you would be too.
Bryant spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday since signing his new contract (the press conference was broadcast on Time Warner Sportsnet in Los Angeles). Kobe was in Washington with the Lakers, where they will take on the Wizards.
But even with the new deal he’s not getting back on the court immediately. Kobe said he feels strong but it will be “probably weeks” before his returns, adding he hasn’t felt he has his explosiveness back to where he wants it. The Lakers have a lighter schedule next week with three practices and he said that will give him a better idea of his timetable.
“I need more practices to measure it, test it, (to see if) some of the limitations I had in the first couple of practices come back and see if they are still there,” Bryant said. “If not, go from there.”
Kobe also knows he’s going to be on a bit of a minutes limit when he returns, and he’s good with that.
As for his contract, Kobe talked about his personal relationship with the Buss family and his loyalty to the Lakers organization. He reiterated that from his end there were no negotiations.
“We had no conversation whatsoever,” Bryant said. “The only number I saw was the one that I agreed to.”
Criticism of the deal from fans and media has been that it is too large — at $23.5 million next year and $25 million the final year it will cut into the ability of the Lakers to lure enough elite talent to play with Kobe to win him the sixth ring he so covets.
Not surprisingly, Bryant agrees with Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak that there is enough flexibility to make a deal.
“From what I saw absolutely (they can build a contender),” Bryant said. “I think the fans are, God bless them, they are fans and they have good intentions and a good spirit about it, but I don’t think they understand the cap, or strategically what the Lakers are trying to do better than the Lakers do. I think we’ll be alright.”
Kobe admitted that it would not likely have been a two-year extension if he hadn’t ruptured his Achilles, putting a new obstacle in his path and motivating him to keep going.
So is this his last contract?