The big question surrounding the Lakers as they approach training camp is the status of Kobe Bryant.
The All-Star guard is still recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon, suffered on April 12 in a win over the Golden State Warriors.
“I do believe that he’ll get back and he’ll play this season. You won’t be able to look at him and say he’s hurt,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on Wednesday.
“He’ll be healthy, but he is 35 [years old] and his game has been evolving anyway in the last two or three years,” Kupchak said. “It may be a function not so much of the injury but of the team we have. In other words, he may decide to get players involved more or do things differently.”
Last season Bryant averaged 27.3 points and 6.0 assists a game in 78 appearances.
So far the All-Star guard is still going through the rehabilitation process.
“He hasn’t really been on a basketball court. He’s been in the training room. He’s been on the Alter-G [weight bearing treadmill],” Kupchak said. “I’ve looked out my window for three months and he has not been on the court one day — but quite frankly I’m wondering at night does he go to a gym somewhere?”
Once Bryant is able to run on a normal treadmill for at least a couple of days without ill effect, he can graduate to the basketball court.
It’s too early to guess if that means he’ll be ready on opening night, Oct. 29, against the Clippers.
While Kupchak said Bryant may adapt his game to his age and health, he doesn’t expect the long-time Lakers star to be different when games are on the line.
“We’re down by two or we’re down by three, the Kobe that we know and love is going to take the last shot. I do know that,” said Kupchak. “He may be limping. He may be dragging his leg but he will take the last shot.”
To date, the Lakers have not begun contract extension talks with Bryant, who is in the last year of his deal. Kupchak said he anticipates at some point this season a discussion will take place.
“Kobe has made it clear that he intends to retire in a Laker uniform and I know as an organization, we feel the same way,” he said.
Kupchak did note he wasn’t especially comfortable with Bryant’s high dive, video of which he posted on Vine.
“Not great judgment,” admonished Kupchak. “He got out of the water and he looked like he was healthy, so I felt good. That was not great judgment.”
Bryant has been headstrong since the Lakers drafted him in 1996.
“With Kobe you just try to manage who he is the best you can. Trust me, at 17 years going on 18, you’re not going to change who Kobe Bryant is right now,” Kupchak said. “During a game he’s tough to manage.”
“I think the best that [Coach] Mike [D’Antoni] can hope for is to get to know Kobe better and maybe figure out a way to manage it the best he can,” Kupchak said. “I think that’s Mike’s best chance. No coach has been able to control Kobe. No coach we’ve had since 1996 and that’s not going to change.”