But speaking after practice here Saturday, the 37-year-old Bryant left no doubt about his status.
“I’m definitely playing,” Bryant said at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Stan Sheriff Center.
It would mark Bryant’s first game since late January, when he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, ending his 2014-15 campaign after 35 games. Bryant’s last three seasons all have been cut short by injury.
“I feel great,” Bryant said. “It’s just getting the sea legs under me. Getting up and down … I’m feeling in great shape. I feel strong, feel healthy.”
Bryant, who is entering his 20th season with the Lakers, has said that he expects to play limited minutes throughout the preseason in an effort to help him stay healthy.
His priority, as of now, is to try to regain his rhythm.
“I haven’t played in so long,” Bryant said. “It’s just timing. Defensive timing. Offensive timing. That stuff, you can’t get back in training, man. You’ve just got to play.”
Playing alongside rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ 2015 No. 2 overall draft pick, means Bryant won’t be expected to handle the ball as much or set up the offense.
“I do not like setting up the offense,” Bryant added. “I hate it. [Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson] made me do it years ago, and I had to learn how to do it years ago, to set up the triangle [offense].
“I haven’t played with point guards that are playmakers at heart, and D’Angelo is a ridiculous playmaker. I would much rather catch and shoot, catch and [shoot] one-, two-dribble pullups. You [reporters] know I like scoring the ball. Why the hell would I like setting the offense up?”
And Bryant believes just being able to catch and shoot will better allow him to regain the rhythm that he is searching for after such a long layoff.
“It’s not very hard to catch and shoot,” Bryant said. “You catch and you let it go.”
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