Kobe Bryant is in Germany now having another round of Orthokine treatment on his right knee a sort of rejuvenation of the blood to prevent future swelling. He is not yet ready to begin practice as he recovers from the torn Achilles' tendon he suffered in April so getting a bit of a lube job in his knee is a reasonable idea. But it is also a reminder that Bryant is 35 and can't go on as an elite player in the NBA forever. More immediately it is a reminder that the Lakers and Bryant have a very uncertain future together that his free agency which arrives next summer looms over this season with even more significance than Dwight Howard's a year ago. The day after the Lakers acquired Howard in the summer of 2012 Bryant laid out a plan. He said he would play two more years finish out his current contract then hand the reins to Howard. That might have been ideal for Lakers fans who would have seen a franchise icon go out on top with the future of the team securely in the hands of Howard a young elite player. That was before last year turned into a disaster though and before Howard bolted for Houston. Now the Lakers' future still belongs to Bryant his retirement plans having long been abandoned. Instead at the opening of Lakers practices last week Bryant found some apt comparisons between himself and some other well-aged athletes who returned from injuries--Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. "It's the same" Bryant said. "It's the same old story. (Rivera) is a guy who was written off and forgotten a little bit. He did the work he put the time in and he came back and played extremely well. Peyton Manning the same thing. Everybody wrote him off a few years ago then all the sudden now we all know it. I definitely pull from a myriad of those guys." Manning is 37 and is in the second of a five-year contract with Denver. Rivera was 43 when he retired this year. If Bryant is pulling from guys like that as he says then it is conceivable he will be playing into his 40s or at least pretty close. This is where Bryant and the Lakers run into a dilemma. If Bryant really does play that much longer what will the Lakers have to pay him? LA is planning on having a huge swath of cap space this summer enough to pay two maximum-salary free agents. That was the upside of not re-signing Howard--there would be money for the very promising free-agent class of '14 available.