Lakers Rumors: Kobe Bryant Remains Crucial to Rebuild Despite Injury

Kobe Bryant's third serious injury in as many years does not derail the Los Angeles Lakers' stubborn, brave rebuilding trajectory.

Like him or not, it is painful to see Bryant, now 36, on the shelf once again as he continues to fight a losing battle with Father Time. Legends like him are just that, legends, and the time for going out on top appears a thing of the past.

Unless he and the Lakers stay the course.

In reality, Bryant remains useful despite shoulder surgery this past Thursday. The world knows Kobe: This is not how he will end his career. He confirmed after the operation to ESPN that next year is his return target:

'Yeah, that's the plan,' Bryant said.

Bryant said his rehab over the next couple of months will involve 'a lot of patience.'

'Sore, but it's OK,' Bryant said of his shoulder.

Bryant said media opinion on whether he should return for a 20th season or retire wouldn't affect his decision.

'I don't really listen much to what people have to say to be honest with you,' Bryant said.

In the meantime, Bryant sounds ready to spearhead the recruiting effort off the court, something he would have done regardless of health.

Mike Bresnahan of Los Angeles Times shares the rumblings:

Call it a holding pattern. The plan continues to be next offseason's free agency and the one after. The young rebuild headlined by Julius Randle is one part of a bigger scheme: the chance to reel in a Kevin Durant or some other superstar down the road.

Bryant doesn't need to be on the court this season to help. He was a shell of his former self, anyway, averaging 20.4 shots and scoring just 22.3 during strange usage by coach Byron Scott.

Recent comments by Mitch Kupchak say it all, per Mike Trudell of

Free agency is the key.

The Lakers figure to tout a top pick next...

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