May 22, 2015 / 8:25 PM / 4 years ago

Lakers star Bryant expected to step away after next season

(Reuters) - Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak created some buzz by saying future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant had told him that next season would be his last with the Lakers, but the team said on Friday that was no surprise.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) drives past New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) and guard Eric Gordon (10) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center; Jan 21, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

“He has indicated to me that this is it,” Kupchak said about Bryant told SiriusXM NBA Radio on Thursday.

However, the Lakers, whom Bryant has won five NBA titles with, said that has been the team’s assumption for some time.

“There’s nothing new to it at all. Nothing that’s different from any comments Mitch has made over the past several months,” Lakers spokesman John Black told Reuters.

“This is the last year of his contract. He hasn’t given any indication that he wants to play beyond this year.”

Bryant, who will turn 37 ahead of his 20th NBA season and is returning from shoulder surgery that ended his 2014-15 campaign in January, is scheduled to make a league-high $25 million in completing a two-year contract extension worth $48.5 million.

The Lakers struggled to a 21-61 record last season and own the second overall pick in next month’s NBA Draft, giving them a shot at a prized young player such as centers Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor.

Bryant, a 17-time All-Star guard, has battled a string of recent injuries, suffering a torn Achilles tendon near the end of the 2013 season followed by a fractured left knee.

Kupchak said no formal farewell tour had been planned.

“It’s kind of up to the player if they want to do something like that,” Kupchak said. “But he will be recognized appropriately with great gratitude when it’s time.”

Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry

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