NBA news roundup: Kobe Bryant vows to return; Patrick Beverly to play Monday

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A motivated Kobe and a healthy Rockets point guard are the big news items this Saturday.

Kobe Bryant was supposed to be recovered from his fractured left knee six weeks after he injured it Dec. 17, but now the Lakers have reportedly ruled out that timetable.

He's going to be reevaluated in February, he told reporters, after which a more specific timetable could be established. The bottom has fallen out of the Lakers' plucky start; their win against the Celtics Friday night was just their second in their last 14 games. No matter what the Lakers' record is, though, Kobe will be back. From ESPN L.A.:

"The only thing I can afford to consider is getting better, getting stronger," Bryant said before the Lakers' 107-104 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday. "I can't allow myself to think any other way. I can only think about the next step. To do anything else becomes distracting if you allow yourself, if you give yourself wiggle room to not push yourself as hard as you possibly can. To think about sitting out and this, that and the other, your motivation is all wrong. I refuse to think that way."

Little has been good about the Lakers' play of late, with L.A. having gone into the Boston game having lost six games in a row and 12 of the previous 13. However, Bryant said the Lakers' record has nothing to do with his comeback plans.

"I don't think about that, man," Bryant said. "It's my job to be ready. It's my job to get myself in gear and do my job."

Patrick Beverly to return Monday

The Houston Rockets will be close to full strength on Monday for the first time in weeks when they get Patrick Beverly back in the lineup, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.

Beverly fractured his hand less than a month ago, but Rockets doctors reportedly cleared him fully this week. Without Beverly, the Rockets have struggled mightily to find any bench consistency. Beverly will likely come off the bench at first, but he could slide into the starting lineup to allow Jeremy Lin to become the offensive centerpiece of the Rockets bench.

So far in 2013-14, Beverly, a man-to-man defensive force from end to end, is averaging 9.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

Amar'e Stoudemire out with ankle injuries

The Knicks front line got even thinner on Friday when the 'Bockers announced they'd be without Amar'e Stoudemire for two weeks with a bone bruise and an ankle sprain.

Although his defense has been typically abominable, Stoudemire's offense had been key for the Knicks during their January turnaround that saw them at one point win five straight games. Kenyon Martin, who had been key for the Knicks' bench unit, will also miss time with an ankle sprain.

The injuries leave the Knicks with just Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler as big men behind Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony. Despite that fact, head coach Mike Woodson is still starting all three at the same time, because he's Mike Woodson.

Dwight Howard happy to be out of trade rumors

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For the first time in about three years, the questions around Dwight Howard's future with his current team are nowhere to be found. This has pleased the Rockets' big man, per Basketball Insider:

"For me I think it (the trade deadline) was different from a lot of players," Howard told Basketball Insiders. "A lot of attention was on me and what teams were going to do that day. It's tough. You have everybody asking what's going to happen, what you're going to do, all that stuff. I had a big headache and I was just happy when it was over with.

"I thought the Brooklyn thing was going to come through at the end of the season," Howard said of a potential trade to the Nets. "It was something that was promised, but it didn't happen. Once it didn't happen I figured everything happens for a reason. I just let it go. I was upset for a while, but I just let it go."

This year's trade deadline candidates aren't quite in the same boat as Howard: They didn't request a trade, then deny it publicly, then alienate their coach. But Howard can at least empathize.

Iman Shumpert says he hasn't lost confidence

Knicks guard Iman Shumpert is again in a shooting slump, going scoreless against the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night in 25 minutes of action. It's not the first time this year he's looked completely lost offensively, something that wasn't a problem for him in the first two years of his career.

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said after the game he thinks Shumpert's lost confidence, but Shumpert had a rebuttal for his coach:

"I didn't lose any confidence," said Shumpert, who went 0-for-4 with three rebounds and three turnovers against the Clippers. "I think the same shots are coming, you've just got to knock them down. Everyone will say something about confidence or something if you miss a couple shots. You've just got to keep shooting."

Carmelo Anthony agreed with Shump's assessment, saying he'll be "a big key to the team's success." Woodson, for his part, didn't seem like he was close to benching Shumpert, who has been, incredibly, the subject of trade rumors so far this year. He told reporters "I just gotta give [Shumpert] some love and try to build his confidence back up, because we need him."

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