Will Kobe Bryant be back for the start of next season?
“I think that’s a realistic goal for him,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Saturday.
Bryant will be out six to nine months because of a torn left Achilles’ tendon, the Lakers said. He was injured with 3:08 left in Friday’s game against Golden State.
Bryant told Kupchak to deliver something when they met while Bryant prepared for surgery earlier Saturday.
“Actually, Kobe gave a message for me to pass on to the guys on the team, most of which I can’t share with you right here,” Kupchak said wryly. “But it was a positive message, as you might imagine, very motivational. His spirits were good, certainly markedly different from [Friday] night. He’s proactive in all ways. You wouldn’t expect him to wait a week or two [for surgery]. Certainly [Friday] night when I got the phone call that he wanted to do it [Saturday], I wasn’t surprised.”
Bryant appeared to have been crying before meeting with reporters Friday while using crutches after the Lakers’ 118-116 victory.
Kupchak downplayed the prospects of the Lakers using their one-time “amnesty” provision to waive Bryant in July.
“That’s not even something that we’ve discussed,” Kupchak said. “That’s the furthest thing from our mind right now.”
The Lakers are allowed to cut one of four players on their roster without paying luxury taxes on his salary. Bryant will make $30.5 million next season. The other three eligible players are Pau Gasol ($19.3 million next season), Metta World Peace ($7.7 million) and Steve Blake ($4 million). Only those four players are eligible to be amnestied because they are the only players still on the roster from July 2011.
If the Lakers waived Bryant, they would save up to $80 million in luxury taxes but would still have to pay his salary.
It’s unlikely they will amnesty Bryant because of the relatively short timetable for his return. If they waive him, teams that are under the salary cap this summer could submit secret bids to the NBA office to claim him. He would then belong to the team that bid the highest.
Teams can waive players via amnesty only during a one-week window. This year it’s July 10-16.
The Lakers could re-sign Bryant in July 2014, one year after his contract expired.