Heading into the 2015-16 NBA season, all the attention will be on Kobe Bryant’s return from his third consecutive season-ending injury. With the superstar set to turn 37 years old, Bryant enters what may be the final season of his future Hall of Fame career.
In an exclusive interview with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, head athletic trainer Gary Vitti shares that the five-time champion recently asked about the team’s young core in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson:
“He was asking about our young kids, and I said, ‘You cannot believe how quick and athletic Jordan Clarkson is. He looks fantastic,'” Vitti said. “I said I personally thought D’Angelo Russell is going to be a star. He makes hard things look easy when he has the ball in his hands.
With a crowded backcourt that features the two young prospects and Lou Williams, Vitti informed Bryant he would have to play small forward this season:
“Then Kobe said to me, ‘Well, then who’s going to play [small forward]?’ I looked at him and I said, ‘You.’ And with absolute, 100% confidence, he said, ‘I can do that.'”
Although Bryant is known for being a shooting guard, he has played the small forward position at times throughout his career. At this stage of his career, head coach Byron Scott has already acknowledged that the five-time champion will likely shift positions to allow Russell and Clarkson to start in the backcourt.
Heading into his 20th NBA season, there will be questions if Bryant’s minutes will be managed properly and if he can remain relatively healthy. In 35 games this past season, Bryant averaged 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 rebounds in 34.5 minutes.[divide]