Kobe Bryant may not be as close to retirement as he's long maintained.
"I fell pretty damn confident I can be at a high level for at least another three years," said Bryant in a video interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, released on Monday.
For the past year, the Lakers guard has suggested he would finish out his current contract after this coming season and either retire -- or play one final year.
The first notice that Bryant had changed course was in a video interview on Brazilian television in which the all-star said he "could easily see myself playing another three or four years."
Bryant took some time to explain to Trudell on why his plans changed.
"I think the [Achilles] injury has something to do with it. It really increased the drive," said Bryant, who is recovering from April 13 surgery.
Bryant also said he was inspired by the older San Antonio Spurs and their trip to the NBA Finals, just seconds away from a title in Game 6.
"San Antonio getting so close to winning No. 5 probably hurt me a little bit too," he said. "I want to make sure I push the ring count out a little further. It was really, really close there."
Bryant has five championships with the Lakers. Spurs veteran forward/center Tim Duncan has four.
"It's a testament to what skill can do. To what us old guys can do if you play together, if you play with one mind and one purpose, you can accomplish great things," he said. "It was inspiration for me and hopefully inspirational for the city of Los Angeles and this organization of what we can do, how the tide can change fairly quickly and we'll be looking at a parade."
Of course, the Lakers are waiting to hear free-agent center Dwight Howard's decision on his future. The road back to a championship may be a longer, windier one if Howard decides to move on to another franchise.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak is scheduled to meet with Howard on Tuesday, after the all-star center has met with the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks.
If Bryant is really expecting to play for multiple years, is that a positive or a negative for Howard?
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