NEW ORLEANS -- Kobe Bryant sounded more confident about the Los Angeles Lakers' ability to return to the ranks of the NBA's elite teams with their summer transactions than he did in his ability to return to the court this season.
Calling his recovery from a broken bone in his left knee "a slow process," Bryant was vague about the prospects of a return in the Lakers' 29 remaining games.
"Just try to get better and then go from there," he said when asked of his hopes for playing. "I just try to focus, keep my blinders on and just do what I have to do and not worry too much about what's going on around you, but just stay focused on what my responsibilities are."
Bryant held a news conference before the All-Star Game. He was voted into the starting lineup by fans despite playing just six games after returning from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered last season before he broke the bone in his knee.
Bryant said he hasn't even thought about playing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain in September, but said he will play more pickup games than usual. Playoff games aren't on the agenda -- with a record of 18-35, the Lakers are on track to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Bryant's mood brightened when asked what the Lakers' prospects for improving the roster this summer.
"I have all the confidence in the world that [management] can get the job done," Bryant said. "I'm not concerned about it at all. They have the flexibility to do it and they have the room to be able to do it, and I'm sure they will make the right decisions from top to bottom."
The Lakers currently have commitments to $35 million in salary, plus the guaranteed contract of their first-round pick. The projected salary cap for the 2014-15 season is $62 million.
"What we have coming up this offseason with the cap space and what we have ahead of ourselves seems to be right in the Lakers' wheelhouse in terms of turning things around pretty quickly," Bryant said. "When we've had summers like this, they have never really faltered. The have normally made really sound and excellent decisions that put us right back in contention. So I think this offseason is right in their wheelhouse."
Bryant did admit there are doubts that enter his head about whether he can make a successful comeback from this injury.
"That's part of the excitement of the challenge, that level of uncertainty," Bryant said. " 'Is this it?' sort of thing, 'Are my best days behind me' sort of thing.
"And to have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and ... not succumbing to that is part of the challenge. It's really the biggest challenge is saying, 'Well, maybe this is the end. But then again, maybe it's not.' "