Kobe Bryant says he hopes Dwight Howard re-signs with the Lakers. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Kobe Bryant thinks he'll be back in time for the start of the Lakers' season.
He also said it was "very important" that Dwight Howard joined him too.
"I hope he does," Bryant said Tuesday while meeting with reporters for his end-of-season interview. "I think Los Angeles is the perfect spot for him to assert himself, kind of put his foot down and have his career really take off and be what it should be. There's no greater place for centers to play than here in Los Angeles. I'll talk to him and bring him out to the house, chill with him a little bit, watch another cartoon movie or something. We'll have a good time."
Bryant thought Howard would stay with the team after entering free agency July 1. He can re-sign for five years and $118 million or go to another team for four years and $88 million.
"I would say he is. From a business standpoint it makes more sense, both contractually and also perception-wise," Bryant said. "It's an incredible market, a great place. A lot of things go well for you if you win here."
Bryant also made a pitch to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to keep Pau Gasol despite crushing luxury-tax implications. He wants the Lakers to go for it one last time, though their luxury taxes skyrocket from $30 million to $85 million next season if they again have a $100-million payroll.
"I understand the cap situation so that's always a concern, but all I can do is just voice my opinion. ... Obviously I'm not the one that has to cut the check," Bryant said. "To me, it's a no-brainer. We need him to get to where we need to go."
Bryant sustained a torn Achilles' tendon April 12 and was confident he would be ready for the Lakers' season opener near Halloween.
"But we'll see," he said. The timetable for his return was six to nine months.
Bryant used a knee scooter as he entered the media room for his interview at the Lakers' training facility.
"It's a sneaky injury in the sense that I don't feel any pain. None," Bryant said. "There's no pain there, there's no stiffness or anything like that. Sometimes I forget I'm injured and I stand up and I go to put weight on it and I catch myself. It's one of those injuries where you just have to keep it in the front of your mind at all times and be patient."
Bryant said he wasn't sure if his extensive minutes caused the injury, but said "those were choices that we have to make. It was unfortunate we had to make that push to get into the playoffs, but we did and it happened."
It was his choice to average 45.6 minutes over his last seven games, he said, smiling.
"Of course it was. Mike [D'Antoni] is really going to tell me when to go in and out of the game?"
Bryant said the Lakers need more length, speed and athleticism on their roster. Seems like a long list, but he didn't think the team should be dismantled.
He said the Lakers "could win a championship, no doubt about it." He later added that injuries "put a wet blanket" on the Lakers' title hopes this season.
He gave one final accolade about the Lakers' ability to rebuild or restock whenever necessary.
"It seems to me that this organization … always seems to land on its feet. It’s just one of those franchises, man," Bryant said.
Then he was gone, scooting away into the underbelly of the team's training facility.
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