Bryant clings to Lakers

WASHINGTON, June 19 -- Kobe Bryant said he plans to stay with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers even he if opts out of his contract this summer.

Phil Jackson said his health will dictate whether he returns as coach.

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Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (2nd R) celebrates with (L-R) coach Phil Jackson and teammates, Shannon Brown, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol of Spain, after they won their 15th NBA Championship in Los Angeles, California June 17, 2009.

Bryant met with Jackson and general manager Mitch Kupchak for an individual exit interview on Friday.

The finals MVP can terminate the last two years

of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He's spent his entire 13-year career with the Lakers, winning four NBA championships. But he could get a new, more lucrative and longer deal if he opted out.

Bryant turns 31 in August. He averaged 32.4 points, 7.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds during the finals, when the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in five games.

Jackson, who turns 64 in September, said he'll decide about next season after he gets some health issues checked out.

This season, he missed two road games because of pain and swelling in his lower legs caused by plantar fasciitis, an issue he blamed late-night flights that aggravated the condition.

He has undergone two hip replacement operations

since October 2006 _ using a cane at various times _ and walks with a noticeable hitch in his step.

He signed a two-year contract extension last season and holds the option on a second year. The contract contains a date by which he was required to tell the Lakers if he plans to return, but Kupchak said the team was willing to give Jackson the time he needs to see a doctor.

Bryant wants Lakers management and owner Jerry Buss to bring back starter Trevor Ariza and sixth man Lamar Odom, who both become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Jackson also wants to see the team remain intact, including Ariza and Odom.