When Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles at the end of last year, it appeared that the injury could keep the Los Angeles Lakers star out for much of the 2013-2014 season. Bryant, though, sounds optimistic that his return to the hardwood won’t be very far off.
“My [achilles] tendon feels really, really good. I feel strong,” said Bryant in a recent interview in the Philippines. The All-Star appeared at Resorts World Manila as the new spokesperson for Lenovo, Chinese multinational technology firm.
It was originally though that Bryant would miss nine months to a year with the injury. The projected diagnosis of a 12-month recovery could, theoretically, keep Bryant out for all of next season. However, he is aiming to be ready for opening night, and ready to prove the doubters wrong.
“I think it's interesting because if to me, if somebody's doubting that I can come back from this injury, that means if they had the same injury and my same situation, they'd quit, they wouldn't be able to come back from it. When I hear that, I see signs of weakness,” Bryant said.
Despite suffering the injury at this stage in his career, Bryant is motivated to have a quick recovery. Last year, the Lakers had their worst regular season in nearly a decade and were noncompetitive in the playoffs. The team lost Dwight Howard in free agency and used their amnesty clause on Metta World Peace. They will rely heavily on Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, both of whom were injured for a large portion of 2012-2013.
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Bryant has already won five championships and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Still, he has plenty of motivation to return, even though his contract is up in 2014.
“I would say getting a sixth championship is [my] number one [priority], then I'd say a sixth championship is number two, and then a sixth championship is number three,” Bryant continued.
Last season, Derrick Rose missed the entire year with a torn ACL. He refused to play when he was medically cleared, even after the Chicago Bulls had made the playoffs. It doesn’t seem that Bryant will take that same approach with so few years left in his career. He will be entering his 18th NBA season. After 17 playoff appearances and multiple trips to the Olympics, Bryant may not have much time left to perform at an elite level.
The Lakers are scheduled to open their season on Oct.29 against the Los Angeles Clippers. If Bryant is ready, it will mean it took him just over six months to recover.