Kobe: 'Weeks' away from return


WASHINGTON -- Kobe Bryant said he is still "probably weeks" away from making his return to game action after being sidelined for more than seven months, but feels grateful to the Los Angeles Lakers for signing him to a contract extension while he is still recovering from his Achilles injury.

"It makes me want to run through a wall for them," Bryant said in his first public comments since signing a two-year, $48.5 million deal with the Lakers on Monday. "It kind of just adds more fuel to the fire of being able to come out and kind of prove to everybody that [the Lakers] are right and everybody else is wrong."

Bryant said the salary, which will keep him as the league's highest paid player after he collects his $30.5 million this season, was not something he fought for.

"We had no conversation whatsoever," Bryant said when asked about the Lakers' salary cap moving forward. "The only number that I saw was the one that I agreed to."

Bryant's $23.5 million salary will account for more than one third of the expected $62.9 million salary cap for next season. He is set to make $25 million in 2015-16, which will be his 20th with the Lakers, eclipsing John Stockton's NBA record of playing all 19 seasons of his career with one team in the Utah Jazz.

"I've been fortunate," Bryant said. "I've been very, very lucky. Very blessed. It's very hard in terms of cap restrictions and things of that nature for a group of players to stay together for a long period of time, or one player to stay with one team for a long period of time. You just don't see it that often. So I feel very, very blessed and very fortunate to be a Laker for life."

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday that he does not "foresee" Bryant playing during the team's three-game road trip through Washington, Brooklyn and Detroit and Bryant backed that up, adding that he would still like more practice time with the team when it returns to L.A. before circling a definitive comeback date.

"I need some more practices to kind of be able to measure it and test it and some of the limitations that I had in the first couple of practices, kind of come back and see if they're still there, if they're not," Bryant said.

The Lakers have three practices scheduled for the week of Dec. 1 in between their home game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday to start the week and their road game against the Sacramento Kings that Friday.

"You kind of start looking at those dates a little bit, but I think those three (practice) days when we get back are going to be huge to kind of see what I can do, what I can't do, day after day," Bryant said.

Bryant doesn't just want to practice and play, of course. He wants a chance to contend for a championship. Bryant still believes the Lakers will have a chance to capture another title -- his sixth -- before he retires after what he said will "probably" be his last season in 2015-16.

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