Kobe Bryant is back in the states and on the court, preparing to embark on a six-month training regimen he hopes will have him back in the L.A. Lakers lineup by the start of the 2014 season.
Before the worst season in team history (27-55) had so much as ended, Bryant’s plan was already in motion as he had booked a flight to Germany for a meeting with the medical team that performed the platelet-rich plasma procedure he once underwent on his ailing right knee.
Starting the season recovering from an Achilles’ injury he suffered in late 2013, the 36-year-old Bryant played in just six games for the Lakers last season after breaking a bone in his left leg upon his return. In recent weeks, the 18-year veteran and 16-time All-Star is rumored to have been ramping up his activity level in non-contact drills.
Over that same time, Bryant rarely traveled with the Lakers, instead electing to focus on his rehab even as it elicited criticisms from some that he seemed to be distancing himself from his struggling mates. His leaving town early only seemed to add to the drama.
Through it all, team GM Mitch Kupchak doesn’t seem to have an issue with his star player.
“First of all, I did not know he was leaving town,” Kupchak told ESPN. “Second of all, I think it’s a bigger story to everybody here than it really is to us. We had a tough year. Kobe’s had a really tough two years. He’s had two career-threatening injuries. He’s had to live through the season that we had to live through together. This is his 18th year in the NBA. Although I haven’t spoken to him in the last day or two, I understand leaving town he is going to see his medical consultant in Europe. So, all things considered, to me, it’s not that big of a deal.”
And in six-months, all could easily be forgotten.