On Friday, Kobe Bryant suggested he might play beyond his current contract with the Lakers.
Bryant, whose deal expires after this season, spoke to Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio about the possibility of San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan tying the Lakers guard with five NBA titles.
“My goal is to win more than five,” said Bryant. “If he does win five, hopefully that pushes our organization upstairs to be even more determined and more driven to make the necessary expenses to make sure we continue the next year and the year after that.”
Bryant has been hinting at retirement for some time now, perhaps as early as after next season.
The Lakers are hoping to lure a top-flight free agent in the summer of 2014. To have the cap space necessary do so, the Lakers won’t be able to pay Bryant anything close to the $30.5 million he would be due if he does decide to return for another year.
Then again, if the Lakers are unable to land a player like LeBron James, who might not even opt out of his contract, they could delay their cap plans until 2015, when players like Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and possibly James could hit the market.
If that’s the case, perhaps Bryant has another payday coming from the Lakers, even if it’s for one final season.
Duncan and the Spurs took Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, 92-88, securing homecourt advantage over the Miami Heat.
"You’re seeing a lot of similar things in how San Antonio spreads the floor that you saw when they played the [Dallas] Mavericks in the finals a few years ago, in terms of their spacing, their shooters and their ball movement,” said Bryant, who declined to give his series pick.
Bryant said he didn’t see Game 1 but would catch Sunday’s Game 2.
“San Antonio isn’t an overtly physical team,” said Bryant. “They’re very angular. They use their length. They use angles and their intelligence to really surround ball handlers and force them to play in a crowd.”
Bryant is still recovering from April 13 surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon, and is now wearing a custom-made shoe.
“It’s coming along well,” said Bryant. “I’m progressing. I’m still walking somewhat like a baby giraffe but I’m getting around a little bit more. Nike kind of built a special sole in it for me that has a heel-lift, so I can walk around and keep the tendon compressed somewhat.”
The Lakers announced Bryant would be out a minimum of six to nine months, which could mean as early as opening night or as late as January or even later.
Bryant is confident the team can compete for a title if Dwight Howard re-signs this summer. He noted he’ll talk to the Lakers center again before he makes a decision on free agency.
“I’d love to see us pick up next season where we left off this season prior to these injuries,” Bryant said. “We were playing some good basketball -- things were flowing. We’ll have to make some adjustments in terms of getting a little longer, having a couple of guys on the floor who can cover ground, and cover ground quickly. If we do those things, I like our chances.”