NBA

Kobe's prediction: Howard, Paul both stay put

06/20 7:52 AM

It is sure to be a frenzied summer across the NBA when free agency officially begins July 1, but Kobe Bryant thinks it will be mostly quiet on the Western front for the two professional teams in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES -- It is sure to be a frenzied summer across the NBA when free agency officially begins July 1, but Kobe Bryant believes it will be mostly quiet on the western front for the two professional teams in Los Angeles.

"There's always so much talk going on, especially with big-name guys going here, going there, but that happens once in a blue moon," Bryant said on "The Mason & Ireland Show" on ESPN LA 710 radio on Wednesday. "I think at the end of the day, everybody stays."

By "everybody," Bryant was referring to Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul. Both are set to be unrestricted free agents, and ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard recently reported the two have interest in playing together.

However, Bryant already has begun the pitch process of bringing back Howard.

"I spoke to him maybe a couple weeks ago, just to check in with him, see what he was doing, see what he was up to, see how his summer was going," Bryant said. "But I haven't spoken to him since. I know he's got a big decision to make and I'm sure he'll take the visits and talk to the players from the teams that he's considering. We'll touch base a lot more."

Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com earlier this month that "I have to make sure I have the final word" when it comes to getting in Howard's ear.

Despite the disappointing season the Lakers had in Howard's first year in L.A., Bryant maintained how it is important for the Lakers to re-sign Howard to a five-year, $118 million contract extension.

"It's not like you have guys like Dwight Howard just walking around every day," Bryant said. "Those guys are hard to find. They don't grow on trees. I think when you have somebody like that, with his talent level, you have to, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise, and with the history that this franchise has of having great centers, this would, in my opinion, be the perfect spot for him."

Even if Howard decides to stay in L.A., it remains to be seen how long it will be before Bryant joins him on the court.

Bryant, who underwent surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon in mid-April, admitted he might not be ready to play by the start of the regular season in late October.

"I'm shooting for November, December [at the] latest," Bryant said. "That's my goal in my head. That's what I'm shooting for. I'm really, really determined about getting there. When they think the tendon is strong enough for me to be able to progress to doing really heavy weights and more conditioning and things like that, then it's on me. I won't have any fear or any worry of the tendon rupturing again. There's nothing I can do about it. If it goes again, it goes again. But once I'm ready to go, it's going to be on."

Despite not being able to run yet, Bryant has been rehabbing his leg almost daily by running on an altered-gravity treadmill, working out on an elliptical machine and doing strength exercises such as calf raises.

"I think it's going to be fine," Bryant said. "I think it's going to be more than fine. I'm very pleased with where I'm at. I can get up in the morning and just get up and walk to the bathroom like nothing was wrong. There was a point there where you get up and it's really stiff because it's been immobile all night and it's tough to kind of walk a little bit, but now it feels fine. It actually feels better than it did before I got hurt."

Bryant also said he's been watching the NBA Finals and has no rooting interest between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. But he relished looking back at what it means to play a Game 7, with a championship on the line.

"I think for me, the most fun was probably Game 7 against Boston," Bryant said, referring to the Lakers' 83-79 win to take the title in 2010.

Despite shooting just 6-of-24 in the game, Bryant explained it was his favorite experience of the 37 games he's played in seven Finals series.

"You're looking the lion in the face, man," Bryant said. "Whatever [time] it is in the fourth quarter of Game 7, that's gut-check time, man. That's probably the best feeling."


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