Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant speaks during a press conference before the 2014 NBA All-Star Game at the Smoothie King Center. Photo by Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
For Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, his recovery from a knee injury has been a “slow process” but he is not giving up hope that he can still play this season.
“It’s coming slowly. It’s coming slowly,” said Bryant, who attended the All-Star Weekend in New Orleans after being voted by fans to his 16th All-Star Game. “I’m optimistic coming out of the break that I will have some improvements, once I get back to L.A. and do a couple of follow-ups and then go from there.”
“But it’s been a slow process,” he admitted.
Bryant has played only six games this season, returning on December 8 after recovering from a torn Achilles that he suffered in April 2013. But he suffered a fracture on his left knee on December 17, and was expected to be out for at least six weeks.
“I just stick to the script. Just try to get better and then go from there,” Bryant said when asked about his recovery process. “I just try to focus, keep my blinders on and just do what I have to do and not worry too much about what’s going on around you, but just stay focused on what my responsibilities are.”
When asked if he still hopes to suit up for the Lakers this season, Bryant said: “I am.”
But Bryant also acknowledged that he has had some concerns about his basketball mortality after suffering an injury so soon after his return.
“That’s part of the excitement of the challenge, that level of uncertainty,” he explained. “(The) ‘Is this it?’ sort of thing, ‘Are my best days behind me?’ sort of thing.”
“And to have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and not be – not succumbing to that is part of the challenge,” he added.
“It’s really the biggest challenge. Saying, ‘Well maybe this is the end, but then again, maybe it’s not.’ And it’s my responsibility to do all that I can to make sure that it’s not. That’s really become the biggest challenge,” Bryant said.
When asked if he would still be able to play at a high level when he returns, and “be able to drop 40, just like that,” Bryant was admittedly unsure.
“I don’t know. That’s the challenge of it,” he said. “I don’t know. I think I can, but everything I read from players is that they all think they can go out there and score 40 or 50.”
“It’s not the mind that wears down, it’s the body,” Bryant explained. “So my job is to try to keep my body as fresh as possible, keep it as strong as possible so it can be right there with my mind in terms of how I can execute things. That’s part of the challenge. So we’ll see.”
With Bryant and several other players in and out of the line-up due to injury, the Lakers have struggled in the season. They have an 18-35 record, tied for worst in the West along with the Sacramento Kings. They also entered the All-Star Weekend with a three-game losing streak.
Bryant acknowledged that it has been a difficult season for the Lakers but said he has “all the confidence in the world” in the organization and believes they can rebuild and become competitive again.
“They have the flexibility to be able to do it and they have the room to be able to do it, and I’m sure they will make the right decisions from top to bottom,” Bryant said of the Lakers front office.
As far as the team itself goes, Bryant said he has been trying to keep his teammates’ competitive spirits up.
“(I try to) make sure they’re competing hard every single time,” he said.