Kobe Bryant reiterated that he plans to return to the Lakers next season after recovering from shoulder surgery, but, at the moment, he doesn't expect to play beyond that.
Speaking to reporters before the Lakers played the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center, Bryant acknowledged he briefly had second thoughts about coming back after getting the news of his shoulder injury.
Bryant said he recalled thinking, "I don't know if I can do another nine months [of rehabilitation], this is crazy."
But even though the setback is "discouraging," Bryant said he quickly turned his thoughts to preparing to play in his 20th season in the NBA.
"There was never a question for me whether or not I was going to play next year," when he stands to earn $25 million in salary, he said.
Then he was asked about extending that contract and playing another season. "As I sit here right now, do I want to play after next year? No. That could change," he said.
Did Bryant, 36, know what factors might make up his mind one way or the other? "No idea," he replied.
Bryant had surgery in late January to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the third consecutive season that the Lakers' star has had his season cut short because of an injury. He tore his Achilles' tendon in April 2013. After returning for the 2013-14 season, he played only six games before he suffered a fractured bone in his left knee.
"This [rehabilitation] is much more encouraging," Bryant said of the shoulder. "I can move around a lot more. I can pretty much do anything."
"As far as shooting, I don't know" how soon that might happen, Bryant said. "Probably a month or so."
Bryant said he remained motivated by "the thrill of the challenge of trying to come back. It gets tougher and tougher to try to get back up."
Bryant played in 35 games this season before the surgery, a season in which he will make $23.5 million. He averaged 22.3 points a game but shot a career-low 37.3%, compared with a career average of 45.4% coming into this season.
Before the surgery, Lakers Coach Byron Scott often rested Bryant in hopes of keeping him healthy all season.
Bryant was asked Tuesday if he expected to have his minutes limited again next season. "Honestly, I don't know," he said. "At this stage all I can do is just try to do whatever I can to try be as healthy as possible. If something's going to go, it goes."