Kobe Bryant will definitely be back to start the next NBA season, and could even return for the preseason, the Los Angeles Lakers vice president said on Thursday.
Jim Buss told NBA TV that Kobe’s rehab from a torn Achilles is ahead of schedule. Buss, who was in Las Vegas for the NBA summer league, said he would “bet a lot of money” that Kobe will be back in a Lakers uniform by the preseason.
“He’s real sharp in taking care of himself and he’s not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point. He’s going to come back when he’s right,” Buss said. “He’s a machine. He’s inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can’t believe how much he’s progressed so far.”
Last month Kobe held a press conference in which he gave his recovery process a title — “The Last Chapter” — which led many Lakers fans to fear he planned retirement. But Kobe later said he wants “two more cracks” at winning his seventh ring, and plans to come back next season “with a vengeance.”
In the meantime, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have been working on a contract extension that will allow the future Hall of Famer to end his career in Los Angeles. The deal will likely be less than the $30 million a year he’s making now, but sources said the Lakers want to reward him for his loyalty to the team.
But despite the aspirations of at least one more NBA title, Kobe said he isn’t going to rush his recovery process.
“So, you just have to be patient, let the tendon heal, and then when that moment comes when they say, ‘OK, we can take off the regulator so to speak and now it’s on you to train as hard as you can to get back to where you want to be,’ that’s going to be a good day,” he told ESPNLosAngeles.com last month.
Kobe Bryant said he will get more active in his rehab next month as he prepares for the start of training camp in October.