Kobe Bryant (left) is coming off a season-ending knee injury, returning to a depleted Lakers team.
Greg Nelson/SI
By Ben Golliver
June 19, 2014

Six months after suffering a fluky knee injury that ended his 2013-14 season prematurely, Lakers star Kobe Bryant says he is fully healthy.

“I am 100 percent,” Bryant declared in an interview in Brazil, where he is attending the FIFA World Cup.

Bryant, 35, sustained a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee during a Dec. 17 game against the Grizzlies. After initially ruling him out for a period of six weeks, the Lakers eventually shut down Bryant for the season in March.

The five-time champion appeared in just six games for the Lakers after missing training camp, the preseason and the opening portion of the 2013-14 regular season as he recovered from a torn Achilles suffered in April 2013. His knee injury forced him to miss the 2014 All-Star Game, even though he was voted into the Western Conference’s starting lineup by the fans.

“It’s a very, very tough season, but what’s life without a few challenges? You’ve got to have a few challenges,” Bryant concluded. “This summer I’m training really hard. The organization is working really hard to make sure we have a good team. That’s the best time: when people count you out.”

Without their All-Star guard and the face of the franchise, the Lakers went 27-55, marking the organization’s worst record since relocating to Los Angeles in 1960. This summer, the Lakers parted ways with coach Mike D’Antoni, and have yet to name his replacement.

Asked about who the Lakers’ next coach should be, Bryant was noncommittal.

“That’s a very, very tough call to make,” he said. “Unfortunately there are very few great coaches out there. I don’t know why that is. … We’re going to take our time to find the right person.”

L.A. is preparing for what should be an incredibly busy offseason. Aside from a massive two-year, $48.5 million contract extension for Bryant, the Lakers have cleared their books this summer. Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are the only three Lakers currently under contract for next season. Nick Young holds a player option, while Pau Gasol is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The Lakers also hold the No. 7 pick in this month’s draft.

“We only have three players from last year’s team signed to contracts right now, including me,” Bryant said. “We don’t have a coach. It’s literally like starting from scratch. It’s not really what we have to do better from last year, it’s just we have to build the right team to win.”

Bryant averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. He sits just 592 points behind Michael Jordan for the No. 3 spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Video via YouTube user Team Kobe | Hat tip: Los Angeles Daily News

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