Kobe Bryant played just six games last season for the Lakers, after taking plenty of time to recover from a torn Achilles injury suffered near the end of the previous season, and then missing the rest of the year after dealing with a fracture in his left knee.
The Lakers have been moving extremely slowly in terms of finalizing anything for next season — there are only three players on the roster committed to guaranteed contracts, and there is no head coach currently in place. Bryant’s status will have a lot to do with how the team proceeds, and he believes that he’ll be back to his old self by the time next season is upon us.
This is precisely the reason that the Lakers have been so cautious in their offseason approach.
If Bryant is back to his normal self, which would mean being a capable scorer in the 25 points per game range, that’s something the franchise wouldn’t want to take for granted in terms of its rebuilding process.
A healthy Bryant is a player the Lakers would want to try to build around — if not specifically for next season, then certainly for the following year when so many free agents of interest would be hitting the open market.
L.A. is a franchise that can’t afford to go through an extended rebuilding process, and would prefer to put a winning product on the floor as quickly as possible. A healthy Kobe Bryant changes everything in that regard, so the news that he’s 100 percent this far from the beginning of training camp is great — but it does put additional pressure on the front office to assemble an immediately capable roster.