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Kobe Bryant doesn't plan to play for anyone but Lakers if he continues his career

Marc J. Spears
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Kobe Bryant has a message for Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers fans and anyone else who thinks he will finish his NBA career elsewhere.

"A lot of players want to go to different teams or contend to win championships," Bryant told Yahoo Sports at the conclusion of the Lakers' media day on Monday. "I'm a Laker, man. I'm a Laker for better or worse."

Jackson, who coached Bryant and is now president of the New York Knicks, recently told New York media that he thinks Bryant could play for another team after his contract with the Lakers expires after this season.

"I don't think it's his last year," Jackson said. "Sounds like it might be his last year as a Laker."

Bryant, 37, is entering his 20th season with the Lakers. He's making $23.5 million in the final year of his contract, and if he does continue to play, he expects he'll do so in a Lakers uniform.

"I'm a Laker, man. How many times do I have to say that?" Bryant said "Dude, I bleed purple and gold."

Kobe Bryant is beginning his 20th season with the Lakers. (Robert Casillas/The Daily Breeze via AP)
Kobe Bryant is beginning his 20th season with the Lakers. (Robert Casillas/The Daily Breeze via AP)

Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Jerry West and James Worthy played their entire career with the Lakers. Worthy, now a Lakers TV analyst who also will work with the team's big men this season, expects Bryant to join that list upon retirement.

"This is where he made his life," Worthy said. "It would mean a lot to him."

Bryant missed 47 games last season, most because of a right rotator cuff injury that required surgery. He also missed 76 games to injury during the 2013-14 season: 19 games following Achilles surgery and 57 games because a fractured left knee. He last played over 40 games during the 2012-13 season.

Bryant is cleared to participate in the Lakers' training camp this week in Honolulu. He also said he will play in the preseason opener against the Utah Jazz on Sunday.

"I'm very excited to get out there and play," Bryant said. "It's hard to describe, but you miss the game. I miss competing and being out there playing. I try not to think about it because I get too excited about it. I try to focus on the here and now.

"But I'm very appreciative and excited to be able to come out and play after three season-ending injuries. I'm excited to be able to stand here in front of you healthy."

Bryant has not played since injuring his shoulder Jan. 21, has not been hit on his shoulder since surgery and wasn't certain when he would scrimmage five-on-five this week. He is optimistic he won't have a setback, but is curious to see how his shoulder will react during a game.

"I can do pretty much everything," Bryant said. "I have gone through our strength training getting my shoulder in positions where we would be a little apprehensive. But it feels extremely strong."

When asked about his athleticism now, Bryant said: "I don't know. I'm strong. I feel ready. I haven't played five-on-five yet. I don't know at this point."

Bryant was asked several times how much longer he expects to play. He said over and over again he's uncertain.

"They have so many questions that I don't have the answers to," Bryant said. "It's tough for me to answer those things because I genuinely don't know."

The Lakers have added several new players, including center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams, forward Brandon Bass and rookie guard D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in this year's draft. Forward Julius Randle also returns after suffering a broken leg in his rookie debut last season. The Lakers missed the playoffs last season for the second straight year for the first time since 1974-76. They've never missed the postseason three straight years.

"I don't have any expectations yet because we have a new group and a lot of young guys," Bryant told Yahoo Sports. "Julius, this is really his rookie year. [Jordan] Clarkson gained valuable experience at the end of last year. You got D'Angelo coming. You got a lot of players that have a lot of figuring out to do of the pro game still.

"So we're not sure how that is going to mix. We don't even know how our starting five is going to look like. We got to figure that stuff out first."

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