Kobe Bryant says he plans to return, play for Lakers this season

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If the season ended today, the Lakers would have the seven or eight pick (they are tied with Cleveland, there would be a coin flip). They are also currently 12 games back of the eight seed and the playoffs in the West, ground they are not going to make up.

Those facts have a lot of Lakers’ fans in full tank mode — just as their team is getting healthy (Steve Nash and Steve Blake are back) and won two of three the fans want to see the Lakers lose and lose a lot. They want a top five pick. Lakers fans are just fine if Kobe Bryant doesn’t return until next season.

Too bad, he’s planning to come back.

That’s what Bryant told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com on Monday.

“My plan hasn’t changed,” Bryant said Sunday at an event to promote his newest signature sneaker, the Nike Kobe 9 Elite Masterpiece. “I’m just going about it every single day just trying to get better. That’s my job. My job is to get my butt back out there on the court when I’m healthy enough to play and that hasn’t changed.”

After working hard to return from his ruptured Achilles, Bryant played just six games before he suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee. He has been out since Dec. 17 and will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break.

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When will he return?

“That I don’t know,” Bryant said. “It’s completely out of my control. I really got to sit here and just wait until this thing heals up and then go out there and do what I do.”

With or without Bryant the Lakers will not be good. There is wisdom in what the fans want with tanking, and that’s one reason the Lakers will try to be sellers with the contract of Pau Gasol among others drawing interest.

But the Lakers will not fully go there and embrace being bad to get good, it’s not in their organization’s nature. Bryant and Nash (who looked pretty good until he aggravated his injury again Sunday) will get their chances this season. And combined this Lakers roster is just good enough to push this team up to about the 10 seed. Which should frustrate fans.