Lakers Insider: Kobe Bryant’s Role Central to Coaching Search, New Game Plan

Welcome back, Kobe.

Kobe Bryant realized the last years of his career weren't going to be maximized in Mike D'Antoni's system, and the Los Angeles Lakers now agree.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak suggested Wednesday that the NBA will see Bryant's full attack mode when he returns to the court at age 36 next season under a new head coach.

"He's under contract for two more years, and we think he's a very integral part of this team," Kupchak said. "We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach can really get the most productivity out of him, whether it's scoring the ball or playmaking or the threat that he may score."

In other words, it's Kobe's team again in a familiar sense, whether it consults him on the coaching hire or not.

After D'Antoni's quick-shooting system propelled the Lakers to 11th in scoring this season, the Lakers are likely to employ a more deliberate mode of offense, leaning on Bryant drawing double-teams on the wing or establishing position at his beloved mid-post spot.

"Kobe knows where on the court he'll be most effective," Kupchak said.

Bryant, according to Kupchak, "looks good" so far in the early stages of on-court workouts since the fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee took so long to heal that his prognosis went from six weeks to 17 weeks and the rest of the season.

It's a near certainty that after an offseason of ramping up, Bryant will enter training camp in October better equipped to sustain the season-long level of the excellence to which he is accustomed. What remains to be proven is whether Bryant can avoid further injuries that sideline him when the Lakers will need him more than ever, assuming they follow through on plans to put off long-term free-agent investing until 2015.

The Lakers' approach will be to some extent about meeting Bryant halfway, especially when the team doesn't have much to look fo...

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