Kobe Bryant thinks the youthful Los Angeles Lakers, as presently constructed, can make the playoffs.
"Absolutely," Bryant answered Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears in an interview. "We have talented players in their respective positions. We have some really young players. How exactly will the pieces of the puzzle fit? We really don't know."
What Bryant does know is that this 20th season will be his last year in the NBA, right?
"I think that decision needs to be made after the season," Bryant said about his pending retirement. "It's hard to make a decision like that before the season."
While not shutting the door on another season, the 37-year-old opened wide the possibility of playing in China or Italy after hanging up his Lakers' jersey. In China, Bryant's following borders on religious. Even after three straight years of injuries, China seemingly loves Bryant like nowhere else. Italy, of course, offers Bryant a return to the country where he spent his childhood.
"I can see myself doing that," Bryant said about playing in China or Italy. "I can see myself doing a lot of stuff. That's a whole other question. I will make some decisions when I decide to hang it up."
For now, though, the grizzled veteran is focused on rehabilitating his body for one more season in Los Angeles. Following surgery on a torn rotator cuff, Bryant told Yahoo! Sports his lower body is stronger than it was a year ago. He also confirmed that he has resumed lifting weights on his upper body, which is a positive sign considering he had shoulder surgery.
Analyzing the next season and beyond, Bryant sounded high on the Lakers' future. After the two worst seasons in LA Lakers' history, the purple and gold finally have a glimmer of hope with a youthful roster that stars no. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell and second-year players Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
"(The Lakers) have really set themselves up for a promising future going on years," Bryant said. "I think they drafted very well. The free agents that we picked are extremely solid, [Roy] Hibbert, [Brandon] Bass, Lou [Williams]. We have a very good mix of young and veteran leadership. The challenge is going to be blending the two and cutting down the learning curve."
Bryant added, "I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to running with these young guns."