Washington (AFP) – Kobe Bryant says his NBA return from left Achilles tendon surgery is likely weeks away but the Los Angeles Lakers guard is improving and regaining the explosiveness that made him a superstar.
And the 35-year-old American, who signed a two-year deal worth $48.5 million with the Lakers on Monday, says that his new deal does leave the Lakers room to sign new talent and become a title contender again as well as silence critics who doubt his worthiness for such a contract.
“It makes me want to run through a wall for them,” Bryant said Tuesday before the Lakers played at Washington. “It adds more fuel to the fire. It makes me want to come out and prove they were right and everybody else was wrong.
“We have the ability to do something special. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Bryant has not played since being injured last April but has practiced with the Lakers, who split their first 12 games of the new season, and says his return could come in December.
“Much closer. I feel good,” Bryant said. “I’m feeling much stronger, ready to come back.”
Bryant wants to have the same pep in his steps that helped the Lakers win five NBA titles between 2000 and 2010 and helped the U.S. Olympic squad claim gold in 2008 and 2012.
“If it’s not there then I’m ready to adapt to whatever my body is telling me,” Bryant said. “I just want to come out and do what I do best and help this organization get back to where it belongs.
“The goal is to put ourselves in position to win a championship.”
Bryant took less than he could have sought from the Lakers and the difference could be enough to allow Los Angeles to land a top free agent next year such as New York star Carmelo Anthony.
“There was really no negotiation. The Lakers came up with a structure that they thought was a win-win for everyone involved,” Bryant said. “From my perspective it was easy to say yes. It was pretty quick. We had no conversation whatsoever. The only number I saw was the one I agreed to.”