Trade unsettling for Kobe Bryant

"We're not going to push him to get back," Kupchak said. "I don't see why you would. We've made a commitment to him for two more years, and I just don't know why we'd do that [push him to come back]. But if he feels he's ready and he's in shape and he gets the doctor's approval, then there's no reason why he couldn't do that."

Kupchak said he was "hopeful" that Bryant could play before the season ended to show potential free agents what he is still capable of doing. But Kupchak also believes the five-time NBA champion already showed enough in his six games back in December -- he averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds in that span -- that he still can be a close approximation of the player he was.

"There's really no reason why anyone should speculate as to whether or not Kobe can get back next year at a high level," Kupchak said. "I think the bigger challenge is his age. But he's shown over the years that he can adjust his game to his age."

The GM said Bryant is a major reason why he's confident the Lakers will be improved next season.

"Next year we're going to have Kobe, who is healthy," Kupchak said. "And we will have a good draft choice and we'll have dollars to spend on free agents. So, it depends on who we can get in this summer. I don't think that we'll use our cap money to patch together a team for next year. We're looking to bring something to Los Angeles. It may take more than one year to build, I don't know. But because we have a lot of money this summer, doesn't mean we'll spend it all.

"We'll spend it wisely and if we can't, then we'll do the best we can this summer and then we'll look maybe to the next summer. We don't know how that's going to play out right now. We don't know who is going to be free agents. We don't know who is going to opt in and who is going to opt out, so there's a lot of unknown. But all you can do is be in position, and we feel we are positioned well for our opportunity."

Information from's Ramona Shelburne was used in this report.

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