Kobe Bryant, who has been quiet for months, said Thursday on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live that he is healthy and prepared to return to the NBA in top form next season.
Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar guard, missed all but six games of this season because of a fractured knee and torn Achilles in his left leg.
“From a health standpoint, (I’m) 100 percent,” Bryant said. “I started doing a lot of on-court training and so I’m back into my routine. Then I’ll start lifting and start doing the running, which I hate. By the time the season comes around, I’ll be ready to go.”
He expects to have many new teammates, and the team is amid a coaching search, one in which he hopes to have a valued opinion.
“On the last two (hires) they didn’t,” Bryant said, referring to Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, who both did not last the length of their contracts. “On the third one, I’m hoping they do.”
D’Antoni was offered a buyout to leave the Lakers and accepted it. Bryant’s response? “I didn’t care,” which can be interpreted as code for he wanted a change.
Bryant said he and the Lakers brass, Jim and Jeanie Buss, share an “open-door policy” and communicate regularly. As for a new coach, Bryant said, “Honestly, it’s not really about whether the players like the coach or not. It’s really about getting results. Liking somebody and those results don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.
“Sometimes when a coach is driving you, you don’t necessarily like it, but it’s a part of the process, and then once you win, everybody is buddy-buddy after that.”
“Jimmy and Jeanie both, they’re just really determined and excited about the possibilities of next season and rebuilding this and building on their father’s legacy and everything that he’s accomplished,” Bryant said. “And they’re taking the challenge extremely, extremely seriously. They’re both on the same page and they want nothing but excellence here, so I have no doubt that we’ll make it happen.”
Ever the optimist, he said he expects the Lakers to return to prominence soon.
“I do,” said Bryant, who will be 36 soon. “We’ll make changes, for sure. There’s certain characteristics that you have to build your team around in speed and length and rebounding and defense. We’ll make those adjustments.”