There was a moment a couple of weeks ago where the Los Angeles Lakers looked like they’d not only swung a trade for Chris Paul, but they’d left themselves enough assets to at least make a run at Dwight Howard. Today, Paul is a Clipper and the Howard talks have been shelved. And that has led to some to speculate that Kobe Bryant will want out of LA.
In a Q&A with Yahoo Sports, Bryant scoffs at the notion.
Bryant: “I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t have any feeling about [leaving] whatsoever.”
Q: So you definitely want to stay a Laker?
Bryant: “Of course. No question. Why not? I’ve been here for 16 years. I’m going to up and leave now?”
Q: Do you want to be one of those rare stars that played in only one place during a long NBA career?
Bryant: “Oh yeah. That would be special. It’s rare to see that nowadays. It’s almost nearly impossible.”
Some blowhards at four-letter networks may disagree (or maybe it’s just one blowhard), but with only a couple of years left in the game, now is not the time for Kobe Bryant to leave town.
He wants that sixth championship in the worst way. He wants so badly to catch Michael Jordan, and to do it in a way where Jordan has little ammunition in his “I’m still the greatest ever” argument. Leaving the Lakers now will just open him up to the “Michael never had to chase a championship” criticism. Kobe doesn’t want to go out that way.
So the pursuit of a title resumes this week for Kobe. And while whether the Lakers are able to acquire a new player for that run remains to be seen, Kobe may feel like he’s acquired a new knee after a procedure this summer in Germany.
Q: What can you do physically with that knee that you couldn’t do at the end of last season?
Bryant: “Anything I want. I can run. I can jump. I can run the track. I can lift weights the way I want to lift weights. I can practice every day. Those are things I couldn’t do last year.”
That’s good news for Lakers fans. For a guy who seemed to be limping towards the end of his career, to hear Kobe say he feel that rejuvenated has to at least help ease some of the pain of losing out on at least one and maybe two superstars who may have assumed the mantle of team leader in the post-Kobe era. If the new knee can extend that era at all, then maybe the Lakers can still contend for a title while still finding that bridge to the next generation of Laker greatness.