Scott expects Kobe back next season

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Shoulder surgery performed Wednesday morning will likely end Kobe Bryant's season, but Lakers coach Byron Scott emphasized that he expects the 36-year-old to return next season.

“In my mind right now, he’s coming back next year, unless he tells me something different,” Scott said.

The injury, which Bryant suffered last week in a road loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, will almost certainly mark Bryant’s third consecutive season-ending injury. Bryant, now in his 19th season, has seen his past two seasons cut short by Achilles and knee injuries.

Scott said he communicated with Bryant on Tuesday night after the Lakers’ loss to the Washington Wizards, which marked the team's ninth straight defeat -- its longest losing streak since it lost 10 straight in April 1994.

“He didn’t seem to be struggling at all. He was calling me to console me, which is Kobe,” Scott said with a laugh. “He’s texting me, talking about, ‘Are you OK?’ He’s the one going into surgery ... not me. But that’s just him, and that’s basically our relationship.”

Of Bryant’s impending rehabilitation, Scott said, “It’s pretty painful from what I’ve heard, and the rehab is long.”

Bryant will make a league-high $25 million in 2015-16, the final year of a two-year contract extension he signed in November 2013. Scott is already envisioning how he will use the star shooting guard.

“For Kobe, play him at mid- to low-20s minute-wise,” Scott said, a stark difference from the team-high 35.4 minutes per game that Bryant played during the Lakers’ first 27 games this season.

But Scott said future plans involving Bryant greatly depend on this summer.

“I got to wait until August until we have a good idea of what we've brought in and who we bring back,” he said, alluding to free agency and the draft. “Then we go from there.”

Scott said he expects Bryant to be active in recruiting free agents.

“But I think the biggest thing with Kobe, as long as [the media are] saying that he’s done, he’s going to come back,” Scott said. “I think he proved his point this year that he still has a lot left in the tank. He’s still one of the best players in the league.”

Bryant, who was voted in by fans as a Western Conference All-Star starter last week, played 35 games with the Lakers this season, averaging 22.3 points per game on a career-low 37.3 percent shooting.