Kobe Bryant has been out of commission for a while, but it still was slightly awkward seeing him out of the starting lineup. Up until now it looked like we'd have no choice but to eventually get used to it since Kobe said next season was going to be his last.

But as Dwight Howard annoying showed us over the past year, things change; the Black Mamba may stay after next season.

He hinted at the possibility when he spoke with Stephen A. Smith. The analyst mentioned that Tim Duncan might tie Bryant at five championship rings. Of course, the next ring will be the sweetest for the Black Mamba:

My goal is to win more than five. If he does win five, hopefully that pushes our organization upstairs to be even more determined and more driven to make the necessary expenses to make sure we continue the next year and the year after that.

It would be a good look for the Lakers if Bryant does return, but the organization may not be able to pay him the $30.5 million he'd be owed if it does decide to go after an upper echelon free agent in 2014. Los Angeles' future decision would also pend on whether Howard decides to stay or not, and who knows when will that be?

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[via LA Times]