Last week, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and revealed that he is 100 percent from a health stand point, but isn’t quite there basketball-wise. After suffering consecutive season-ending injuries, there is uncertainty surrounding his return at age 36.
On Monday, general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke about numerous topics including Bryant’s extension and his expectations for the five-time champion heading into this season. In an interview with Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell, Kupchak said Bryant won’t be the same as he was when he was 24 years old, but he’s not worried about that:
He’s not going to be the player he was athletically, physically, when he was 24. He looked different then; he was thin, loaded with unabashed energy. Kobe at 36 won’t be the same, but he’ll be better in a lot of ways.
Since signing Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million extension, both parties have received criticism for the timing of the contract. While Bryant was just coming off the Achilles rupture, Kupchak felt the Lakers had a rare opportunity to sign one of the top free agents that would be available this summer:
“Signing Kobe when we did, we felt, gave us one of the top two or three free agents that would be available this summer. We had the rare opportunity to get that done and not have to wait until July 1.”
While Kobe’s extension will continue to be a debate, the five-time champion has done so much for the organization and has a lot of value for the franchise beyond what he does on the court. Although many players have actually made references to his contract, it will still allow the Lakers to sign another superstar this upcoming summer.
With Bryant cleared for basketball activities, the five-time champion has more than five months to prepare himself for the final two seasons of his career.
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