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Kobe won't be coming back this season

Kobe Expects To Be Back At The Top Of His Game

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Immediately after the Los Angeles Lakers declared Kobe Bryant out for the season, he already was thinking about how to make sure the Lakers will be much less miserable when he returns.

Bryant expressed only mild frustration Wednesday after the long-expected decision to end his 18th NBA season after just six games. The superstar guard's broken bone in his left knee has kept him out since shortly before Christmas, and it still hasn't healed enough for weight-bearing exercise.

With just five weeks left in their injury-ravaged season, the Lakers (22-42) elected to preserve Bryant for next year, when he'll be 36. And though Bryant has barely played, he is determined to make sure the Lakers' failures of this season aren't repeated in 2014-15.

The Lakers' ruthlessly competitive scorer can't take much more of this incompetence from his 16-time NBA champion franchise.

"I feel like killing everybody every time I go to the arena," Bryant said. "I'm just on edge all the time. Yeah, I still feel it, probably more than anybody in the organization does. I probably feel it more, and it drives me absolutely crazy."

Bryant clearly identified the Lakers' top offseason priorities in his mind, and they didn't include specific free-agent additions. The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history called on the Lakers' front office - and owner Jim Buss in particular - to set "a clear direction" for the franchise's return to the top after they miss the playoffs this spring for just the second time in his career.

"You've got to start with Jim," Bryant said. "You've got to start with Jim and Jeanie (Buss), and how that relationship plays out. It starts there, and having clear direction and clear authority. And then it goes down to the coaching staff, and what's Mike (D'Antoni) going to do, what they want to do with Mike, and then it goes from there. It's got to start at the top."

Phil Jackson's apparent decision to take a front-office job with the New York Knicks also drew a negative reaction from Bryant. The Lakers flirted with re-hiring the 11-time NBA champion coach early last season before unexpectedly choosing D'Antoni, whose two injury-plagued teams have gone 62-74.

"You know how I feel about Phil," Bryant said. "I have so much admiration for him, and respect, and have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It would be tough. I don't really get it."

Bryant said nothing about his relationship with D'Antoni, and the coach said he hadn't spoken to Bryant about the decision to shut him down.

But Bryant said he won't be satisfied with another rebuilding year for the Lakers, even though his two-year, $48 million contract extension starting next season will absorb a large chunk of the team's upcoming salary-cap space. Most of Los Angeles' roster will be free agents in the summer, and Bryant has said he wants center Pau Gasol to return.

"How can I be satisfied with it?" Bryant asked. "We're like 100 games under .500. I can't be satisfied with that at all. This is not what we stand for. This is not what we play for. A lot of times, it's hard to understand that message if you're not a die-hard Laker fan. It's hard to really understand where we're coming from, what we're used to, what we're accustomed to, which is playing for championships. Everything else is a complete failure. That's just how it is."

Exactly 11 months after tearing his Achilles, Bryant remained confident he can return in something close to top form. He plans to approach his remaining rehabilitation as "a seven-month training program," giving him ample time to rebuild strength in his left leg.

"I don't want to say I'll be back at the top of my game," Bryant said. "Because everybody is going to think I'm crazy, and it's the old-player-not-letting-go sort of thing. But that's what it's going to be."

Bryant missed the first 19 games of this season after tearing his left Achilles tendon last April, returning Dec. 8. The five-time NBA champion was back in uniform for just 10 days before fracturing the top of his shinbone in Memphis.

The Lakers initially thought Bryant could return shortly after six weeks of recovery, but the bone has been slow to heal.

"With Kobe's injury still not healed, the amount of time he'd need to rehab and be ready to play, and the amount of time remaining in the season, we've simply run out of time for him to return," Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said.

Los Angeles began the day in a three-way tie for last place in the Western Conference with 29 losses in its last 38 games heading into Thursday's trip to Oklahoma City.

Steve Nash hasn't been formally shut down for the season, but D'Antoni indicated it's also unlikely the two-time MVP guard will return this season. The 40-year-old Nash, who has one year left on his contract, has played in only 10 games this season while dealing with back problems and related woes.

D'Antoni said Jordan Hill and Nick Young are both unlikely to play on the Lakers' upcoming two-game road trip, but Gasol is probable despite skipping part of practice Wednesday.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
marymillia March 12 2014 at 8:27 PM

I have watched the Lakers games for years. I MISS KOBE SOOOO MUCH. HE IS ONE OF THE BEST, IF NOT THE BEST, PLAYER. It is very depressing to watch the Lakers play and lose all the time. When Kobe was playing, the Lakers were at the top of their game. THE LAKERS NEED TO GET D'ANTONI OUT OF THERE. HE IS NOT DOING ANY GOOD FOR THE LAKERS. I ONLY WISH WE COULD GET PHIL JACKSON BACK. HE KNEW WHAT TO DO WITH THE PLAYERS AND HOW TO DO IT FOR EACH GAME. HE GAVE THEM GOOD ADVICE AND GOOD PLAYS. Gasol is looking very tired lately and has good games and bad games. BUT I MISS KOBE AND I MISS SEEING THE LAKERS WIN. LET'S CLEAN UP THIS MESS.

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1 reply
jwfoust marymillia March 12 2014 at 9:36 PM

For the rest of us it's been great. Tired of seeing Kobe whine about each and every thing on the court. The fact the Lakers are pathetic is eventually going to make them better. It's going to be a while. In the meantime reality has set in.

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jetmech6868 March 13 2014 at 12:01 AM

Time to retire. Its a team sport..Have Your Say...

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bigwave48 March 12 2014 at 11:33 PM

Lets be honest. The decision making by this organization has been inept, from the very beginning
JIm Buss took over. Signing all these old players, not rebuilding the team, when needed. Not
jumping at the chance to get the greatest basketball coach who ever picked up a piece of
chalk(Phil). Over playing Bryant, to the point of him suffering a serious injury. Lets get real
here, Buss needs to go.

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1 reply
reddog22o5 bigwave48 March 12 2014 at 11:58 PM

Phil Jackson the greatest coach?
No. This dude had everything handed to him.
You need to go.

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Shirley March 12 2014 at 10:49 PM

I'm not sure Kobe has he right to complain about anything.

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1 reply
Andy Bauer Shirley March 13 2014 at 12:02 AM

Sure he does. He's the main face of the Lakers organization, the one everyone associates with the team, and he's given nearly half of his life to the team's success. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to see a team that used to win championships with regularity degrade into one that loses more games than it wins, especially when the reason they're in that position is that the people in charge of getting the talent--coach and players--that they need aren't doing their job. It's much like what Lebron James went through at Cleveland--he was the one who carried the team as far as he could every game, every season, and all he asked for was that they bring in some quality players so that he had the chance to win championships, which is the goal of every NBA player. They wouldn't do it, so he went to Miami because they would...and it worked. Kobe probably feels at this point in his career that he's stuck with the team this far, and he's nearer to the end of his career than the beginning, and rather than abandon ship--the ship he's given 18 years and every ounce of energy he has to--he's trying to right that ship, and righting it starts with the people at the top (the owners) who are the ones who control who stays, who goes, who comes in, and everything about the makeup of the organization. If Koba hasn't earned the right to complain after giving more to this team than either the people who own it or the coach who leads them, then I don't know who does.

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reddog22o5 March 13 2014 at 12:05 AM

a*, then* my bad with the typos

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BRYANT March 12 2014 at 10:31 PM

Interesting 180 degree turn around here. Donald Sterling has come to Jesus, opened his wallet, listened to some good people and put out a very good, fun to watch contending team. The Lakers, on the other hand, with Mr. Buss saying he wants to make some money, have failed to listen, put up the money and manage their team well. They have put out - well we can see what they have put out. As Truman said "the buck stops here" - management is just totally messed up from ownership to the coaches.

With all the money that the Lakers got from Time Warner they should not have any problems financing the team. True story - when Jerry Buss took over the Lakers he had little cash, he used to trade tickets for services - Xerox, IBM etc. The money he had went on the basketball floor. I firmly believe it is time for someone who wants to bring the team back up to buy them, I have lost all confidence in the present leadership.

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Frank March 12 2014 at 9:29 PM

It's very obvious the coaching lacks - I'm sick and tired of watching D'antony just shaking his head when something goes haywire. The coaches are supposed to "coach", inspire, and teach-none of this is happening. It all starts with the coaches and management--Maybe The ghost of Jerry Buss will come help-the kids ego got in the way for Jacksons' return.

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jallens2 March 12 2014 at 9:20 PM

watch the CLIPPERS much more exciting

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JIM ISHOO March 12 2014 at 8:55 PM

Only way Lakers can be a better team is if jim buss sells the team to a capable, knowledgable, owner. He will never fill his fathers shoes, the late Mr. Buss was a real gentleman.

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wlh1923 March 12 2014 at 8:52 PM

He's had a long, successful and illustrious career. Universally considered one of the top NBA players ever. Eventually age and the rigors of the game catch up to us all.

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