Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Kobe Bryant has indicated the 2015-16 season will be the star’s last with the team.
“He has indicated to me that this is it,” Kupchak said Thursday on SiriusXM NBA Radio.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and former league MVP, is scheduled to make $25 million in his final contract season and 20th year with the Lakers.
There has been speculation that Bryant could play beyond next season and the guard — who will turn 37 when next season begins — hasn’t ruled out that possibility.
“I think first and foremost, he’s on the last year of a deal,” Kupchak said. “There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be.”
Bryant’s last three seasons have ended early because of injury. He played only 35 games last season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He averaged 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
“A year from now, if there’s something different to discuss, then it will be discussed then,” Kupchak said of Bryant potentially playing beyond next season. “I talk to him from time to time … and he is recovering. He’s running. He’s getting movement and strength in the shoulder. We expect a full recovery, but yeah, he’s much closer to the end than to the beginning.”
Kupchak was asked about the impact Bryant’s future plans could have on potential free agents joining the team while Bryant is still playing.
“I think it is clear,” Kupchak said. “He’s on the last year of his deal. There have been no discussions (about playing beyond next season). He hasn’t indicated that he wants to continue to play.
“But if there is a player out there like that, that won’t come here for that reason, then we don’t want them. Every great player is demanding and focused and if you don’t want to play for a guy like him that’s driven to do nothing but win championships and work hard, then you shouldn’t be here. You should go someplace else.”
Kupchak said Bryant is still involved in recruiting free agents.
“He’s more than willing (to call a player) every time I asked him,” Kupchak said.
The Lakers, who had the fourth-worst record (21-61) this season, have the No. 2 selection in the 2015 NBA Draft on June 25.
Kupchak knows he will need to improve the roster beyond the high first-round pick.
“We’re going to have to get lucky during the offseason with free agency,” Kupchak said. “Kobe is going to have to come back and be very healthy.”