NEW ORLEANS – Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was introduced with the Western Conference reserves before Sunday night’s All-Star Game, wearing a camel-colored blazer.
Fans worldwide voted in Bryant as a starter, but he arrived at Sunday’s game injured and not completely certain whether he will ever come back again.
“I hope so,” he said.
Bryant has played only six games because of a torn Achilles’ tendon that sidelined him to start the season and a fractured knee that very well could end this one.
Asked before Sunday’s game if he’s concerned his body might be telling him it’s getting to be time, Bryant said: “Absolutely. That’s part of the excitement of the challenge, that level of uncertainty: ‘Is this it?’ sort of thing, ‘are my best days behind me?’ sort of thing. And to have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and not succumbing to that is part of the challenge.
“The biggest challenge is saying, well, maybe this is the end. But then again, maybe it’s not. And it is my responsibility to do all that I can to make sure it’s not.”
He was asked if he has a retirement plan in mind for the next two to five years.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You know, my personality is … I don’t want the rocking chair before the game. I’ll probably just pop up and just vanish.”
Finally, in right role
With Bryant out, Western Conference coach Scott Brooks selected Houston’s James Harden to start at shooting guard. Harden played his first three NBA seasons for Brooks and the Thunder, in a sixth-man role rather than a starter.
“This is a weekend to make it right,” Harden said, regarding that starting role.
Both teams wore those short-sleeve uniform tops that the NBA has debuted this season. The Wolves have worn their version several times already this season.
If they offend your fashion sensibilities and you wonder out loud why, oh why, new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver basically confessed the trend is sales-driven, partly to old guys.
“The greatest indicator is how they’re selling and I’ll say we’re having trouble keeping them in stores,” Silver said. “The idea was presuming there’s a large segment of our fan base — especially older males like myself — who weren’t going to be comfortable wearing tank-top jerseys but would feel comfortable in a sleeved jersey to work out or play basketball in or whatever else. People are buying them and people like them.”
On the block?
Thursday’s NBA trade deadline is fast approaching and with everybody outside of Minnesota already expecting Wolves star Kevin Love to wear another uniform someday, somebody asked him if he could be traded by then.
“You’re asking the wrong person,” he said. “I don’t know. No.”
All up to you
Just in case you’re one of the believers who already envisions Love in a Lakers uniform come July 2015 when he can opt out of his Wolves’ contract …
Bryant was asked if his reputation for being a difficult teammate will affect his team’s free-agent pursuits this summer (or beyond).
“For people who don’t have the same kind of competitiveness or commitment to winning, then I become an absolute pain in the neck because I’m going to drag you into the gym every day,” he said. “If you need to be drug in, that’s what I’m going to do. And for players that have that kind of commitment, very, very easy.”