Kobe Bryant is thinking more and more of the future. (Paul Buck / EPA)

Because he has spent more time recovering from injuries than preparing to play over the last 10 months, Kobe Bryant has been forced to consider just how much longer his NBA career will last.

“To have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and not succumb to that is part of the challenge,” Bryant, who is in his 18th season, told the media before the NBA all-star game in New Orleans on Sunday. “It’s really the biggest challenge. Maybe this is the end, but then again, maybe it’s not. And it’s my responsibility to do all that I can to make sure that it’s not.”

Bryant, 35, tore his Achilles’ last April and played six games last fall before breaking his tibia in December. He wasn’t tipping his hand about whether he’ll be able to play before this season is out. “Stick to the script, just try to get better and then go from there,” Bryant said. “I just try to focus, keep my blinders on and just do what I have to do.”

Bryant may have mentioned retirement, but he doesn’t sound like a guy who’s ready for the next chapter of his life–although he knows how he’d go out.

“As far as my retirement plan. I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said. “As far as my personality, I don’t really want the rocking chair before the game [tributes], you know. That’d drive me crazy. I’ll probably just pop up and just vanish.”

He said that last part with a laugh.