LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson isn’t quite sure when Kobe Bryant will return to the court next season, but he’s convinced Bryant won’t leave the hardwood for good until he at least ties Michael Jordan’s six titles and surpasses Jordan on the all-time scoring list.
“His goal is another championship,” Jackson said Thursday. “He also has a chance to replace Michael Jordan in the all-time scoring list. Those are two goals, with the first one being a championship, that Kobe would like to accomplish.”
Bryant, who has five titles to Jordan's six, is fourth on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 31,617 points, behind Jordan's 32,292.
Bryant said Thursday his goal is to return to the court with the Lakers sometime in November or December after rupturing his Achilles tendon at the end of last season.
“It’s to be seen how well he recovers from the operation,” Jackson said. “Odds are and the belief is it will be very soon in November, which is remarkable.
“We saw Chauncey [Billups] last year, and he had a lot of problems. Kobe’s got that determination, and as long as he doesn’t overdo it, he’ll come back. It’s hard for him not to.”
Jackson said he hopes when Bryant does retire that Dwight Howard will still be with the team to take over as the franchise player. But he wasn’t sure what the center will do this summer as a free agent.
“I really can’t claim to have a relationship with Dwight,” Jackson said. “I did text him one time. Well, twice, actually. He just wanted to know if it’s really me, and I said yes it is.”
“But I just basically said let your play do your talking for you,” he said. “You’ve come through a difficult operation. I went through that. It took me a full year to recover and more, and you’ve done it in short order. Just allow your play to do the action and remember defense and rebounding is the key to this game and the other stuff falls behind that.
“That was about it. And we ran into each other the afternoon of the memorial for Dr. Buss, and I had some words for him."
Jackson said he believes Howard can reclaim his old form after recovering from back surgery, but he would like to see Howard continue to fine-tune his game.
“I really have always had a positive relationship with him ever since that 2009 playoffs,” Jackson said. “You get very close to players when you get into a Finals series. You not only got to go against them but have great respect for them. And Dwight wants to get back to that place, and I admire that about him and the work he has to do to get there is going to be continual.
“Some of it is at the free throw line and some of it is the other aspects of the game, like getting that core strength back after the operation.”
Whether it’s Howard or someone else who will replace Bryant when he eventually retires, it will not be easy for whoever becomes the Lakers’ franchise player moving forward.
“The loss of [Kobe] in the game will be tremendous for L.A. people and for the NBA, because he’s been such an outstanding performer. But it happens,” Jackson said.
“That’s what happens with players. We watch them come and go. We revel in their high times and we mourn the times they have to leave the game, and I certainly will when he does.”