As the Los Angeles Lakers continue their courtship of Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant seems to have given Howard something to think about when he told reporters that he thinks he'll be able to play another three years.
Actually, Kobe went beyond that in talking to Lakers.com's Mike Trudell.
I asked @kobebryant how long he'll play: "I feel pretty damn confident I can be at a high level for at least another three years."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 1, 2013
That's a soon-to-be 35-year-old man reckoning that he can return from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his left ankle and play at a high level clear through until he turns 38.
Of course, this not only bodes well for Lakers fans who are happy to confess their undying love to Bryant at any moment but also possibly for their odds of landing Howard.
This means the star free agent won't immediately be forced into the spotlight by himself in Los Angeles but will have Kobe to help him along for the next few years, should he continue on with the Lakers.
What remains to be seen is whether or not this is Bryant's "official" declaration of when he'll retire or not, which he said he would decide upon over the summer.
If you recall, the notion of Kobe's imminent retirement has come up many times over the past year, especially since his contract expires at the end of next season. The subject first came up from Kobe last July, when he hinted at the possibility of retiring once his contract runs out. He reiterated that notion at the start of Los Angeles' training camp last October.
Just a month later, the question came up again, and he told a reporter from CNN Turkey that he could play until he's 40. Further mixing things up, Bryant was interviewed by Damon Jones at the All-Star break (who else would do it?), and Bryant stated that another two years was the most he would commit to.
Going down the road, Kobe decided to take a different approach to the question, telling ESPN LA's Arash Markazi that he thinks he could play another five years.
Kobe on retiring: "I could play another five years. That's not to say I will."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 8, 2013
Following his Achilles injury, Kobe seemed to realize that he loved the game a little bit more than he thought and that retiring was something he should figure out down the road.
For now, it seems most prudent to recognize retirement for Bryant, as he described it recently in an interview with ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin, as a "moving target" and enjoy him while he's still in the league.
As for playing at a high level for another three years, we'll let his game do the talking on that one.