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Kobe Bryant: Doubters continue to motivate me

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are opening the 2013-14 season without Kobe Bryant in uniform. When will he return?

Not even Bryant knows the answer. He told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that he doesn't plan to play until he can perform at an "exceptional" level.

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Kobe Bryant isn't worried that same people believe he can't continue to play at a high level. (USA Today)

Bryant took some time to answer questions from Yahoo Sports on Tuesday about his future.

Q: Your naysayers don't expect you to come back the same because of your Achilles injury. What should we expect when you return?

Bryant: "Personally? I'm going to be the way I've always been. Maybe a little better. It's always interesting, it's motivating to hear people doubt me. The same guys put the nail in my coffin six years ago. They're still trying."

Q: How do you find a good medium between your competitiveness and also being cautious in rehabbing?

Bryant: "It's all in the same bucket. I'm really competitive. To come back at anything less than to play exceptional basketball is not really smart, then I'm not going to be at my top level and that makes the critics right. That [stuff] isn't going to happen."

Q: What's the latest on your Achilles rehabilitation?

Bryant: "This week I'm pushing it again and measuring it and seeing how it does. I pushed it really hard [Monday], and it feels pretty good today. So I will push it again [Tuesday] night then measure it [Wednesday] morning and continue to go from there."

Q: What do you mean by you will "measure" it?

Bryant: "I'll push it. I will increase the workload a lot and the next day you see how the ankle joint [feels]. At the end of the day it's really the ankle joint. The tendon is fine, but the ankle joint from being immobilized so much is naturally stiff. So it's about breaking through that and increasing that flexibility. If it recovers fine the next day you can push it and keep on going."

[Related: Clippers aren't title contenders if they can't beat Kobe-less Lakers]

Q: Do you have a projected practice day?

Bryant: "No, because you don't know how it's going to respond the next day. So hopefully with me, I will continue to push it and ramp it up every single day. And then we can go from there."

Q: Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that once you begin practicing, you could need two to three weeks of practice before you begin playing in games. Is that correct?

Bryant: "That sounds about right. We haven't had that conversation, but that sounds about right."

Q: Do you have any wish date to return to action?

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Kobe Bryant will have to mentor his teammates from the bench to start the season. (AP)

Bryant: "I don't. I don't. How can I? I don't even know if I will be able to push it hard tomorrow. I have no idea."

Q: Would it be safe to say you'll be back by December?

Bryant: "Dude, I don't know. I don't give a [expletive] what people believe. When I'm ready, I will play."

Q: When you do return, do you have a projected amount of minutes you would like to play and know what is safe?

Bryant: "Those are questions we haven't even thought of."

Q: [Lakers VP] Jim Buss has said that he is not going to let you become a free agent or go elsewhere. Your thoughts on those words?

[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Create or join a league in seconds]

Bryant: "I thought it was a great actually on his part to kind of silence some of the conversation that was brewing. I'm sure we will be in conversation. I'll let [my agent] Rob [Pelinka] handle that. Obviously, I have a lot to focus on right now so I will let them handle that."

Q: So that means you won't explore free agency next summer?

Bryant: "Am I a free agent right now? No. Next summer is next summer. How do I know what is going to happen? Jim Buss just said they're going to start conversations now. We will start the conversations and go from there."

Q: New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is a good friend of yours who has said he would explore free agency next summer. Have you spoken with him about free agency?

Bryant: "He's in New York. I'm in L.A. I have no idea what he is going to do or what he is thinking about."

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