Updates from Sunday, June 29
Speaking of Bryant, Kupchak reported that the veteran guard, who currently is vacationing in Greece, is fully recovered from the torn Achilles and fractured knee in his left leg that limited him to just six games last season.
"Kobe is fine," Kupchak said. "Obviously, he has to prove that. But he's been in here working out, and you wouldn't know [he was hurt]. He looks great. He has to perform at a level next year to prove that, but he looks great."
The Black Mamba is apparently coiled up and ready to explode into a bounce-back 2014-15 NBA season. Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant provided a sudden, optimistic update on his ailing left knee, suggesting he can return to elite form soon.
"I'm 100 percent," said Bryant on Wednesday, in a video interview from Brazil, where he is a spectator at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Los Angeles Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina spotted the video and reported more of what Bryant had to say in the interview regarding the Lakers' ongoing coaching search, along with what L.A. has to do to get back into gear:
That’s a very tough call to make. Unfortunately, there are very few great coaches out there. I don’t know why that is. But there are very few great coaches. It’s a very, very short list. We’re going to take our time and pick the right person. [...] It’s literally starting from scratch. It’s not about what we have to do better from last year. It’s about what we have to do to win.
This is an excellent sign for the struggling franchise, which is coming off a season that saw the ultimate iron man in Bryant play just six games. A rash of injuries to other key contributors, lackluster invigoration on defense and no clear-cut leadership contributed to the woeful 27-55 record.
Medina then added this Bryant tidbit on Twitter:
Kobe: "It's a very very tough season, but what's life without a few challenges?"— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 18, 2014
How will the Lakers fare in 2014-15?
Until a torn Achilles toward the end of 2012-13, Bryant seemed almost indestructible. He's appeared in at least 60 games in 15 of his 18 NBA seasons.
Now it's important for the ultra competitive Bryant not to push too hard in the offseason as he works back into basketball shape. The last thing he needs at this stage is a setback, but all indications are positive based on his own testimony.
The good news about this last season's left knee injury is that Bryant suffered no torn ligaments, as he fractured the lateral tibial plateau.
Building a better team will have to come with expedience for Bryant, 35, to have a shot at a sixth NBA championship. Some have argued that San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan has had the better overall career after his team's recent title, and ESPN Stats & Info made note of where Bryant and Duncan stand all time:
Career Series W-L in NBA Finals: Michael Jordan 6-0, Tim Duncan 5-1, Kobe Bryant 5-2, Larry Bird 3-2, Magic Johnson 5-4, LeBron James 2-3— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 16, 2014
Presuming Bryant is as healthy as he says he is, though, there is almost nowhere for L.A. to go but up. The Lakers also have a lottery pick in this month's draft at No. 7 overall, where general manager Mitch Kupchak can add a potential franchise cornerstone.
Los Angeles is an attractive, big market for free agents, and the Lakers are among the most storied franchises in pro sports. Bryant is inching toward the end of his career, but if he emulates the success he's had in years past, it could help Kupchak and Co. lure a marquee recruit or two to the squad.
With the way he's carried some woeful supporting casts over the years, don't count out Bryant to will the Lakers into contention even in a tough Western Conference. Although the odds seem as stacked against him as ever, Bryant tends to thrive when that's the case.