Ever since he ruptured his Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant has been talking about the future like never before, even going as far as to revise a few things he's said over the past year.
While that's an admirable thing for him to say as he chases down the great Robert Horry (much less that Michael Jordan guy), it seems to fly in the face of what he has said about his future when he was asked before the ankle injury.
At the All-Star Break, Bryant told reporters that he was looking at a maximum of two more years in the league, later claiming that he would make the final decision regarding the end of his career this summer.
Of course, he also once called it "unfathomable" to see himself playing past the 2014 season, which would give him one final, hobbled year if he were to stick to that prediction.
Ever since injuring his ankle near the end of the regular season, however, Kobe has talked more confidently about the distant future than he has over the past year.
One of the most ridiculous statements we've heard from him over the past few months is that he wants to play in the season opener.
There's a point where he goes beyond being confident and optimistic, and enters a realm of either delusion, or possibly gamesmanship.
It's thought that a six-to-nine-month range represents the early end of a return for Kobe, which would put him back between opening day and mid-January.
However, next year's All-Star Break seems to be a more believable target, and even then we're talking about seeing him in limited minutes.
It seems there's one of two things going on here; either Bryant is sending positive vibes to a big man who might be worried about re-signing with the team based on The Black Mamba's health, or he's sending some smoke at the Los Angeles front office.
Beyond that, it could be that Kobe has heard the talk about the "A" word coming in as a kooky idea from here and there, and decided to get pro-active.
With Bryant taking up nearly 40 percent of Los Angeles' total salary next season, and his free agency beyond that point imminent, it's not impossible to think that the front office (by which I mean Jim Buss) would use their amnesty provision to save some money.
If they had reason to believe that he wouldn't be back to full health by next year's playoffs, or that the team wouldn't be making a playoff run regardless, why not roll the dice and save some money?
However, with Bryant giving signals that he's not only wanting to come back as soon as possible, but also stick around longer than once thought, he's handcuffing the front office into his contract this year if they don't want him to sign with another team next summer.
It seems crazy to think that Kobe could leave the Lakers, I know, but it also seemed crazy to think that the Lakers would pull the rug out from under Phil Jackson and give the head coaching job to Mike D'Antoni as well.
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