After receiving full medical clearance on all basketball activities Saturday from the Los Angeles Lakers’ medical staff, Kobe Bryant on Tuesday practiced in full contact five-on-five drills with his teammates and suggested that he may make his season debut later this month, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“Yeah, I can,” Bryant said when he was asked whether he could make a return to the court just seven months removed from tearing his left Achilles tendon.
After his second practice since Saturday, Bryant stated that his ” legs didn’t feel tired at all” as he has been working heavily on his conditioning and getting his body back into shape.
Although the 15-time All-Star has now been able to practice fully with his teammates, both he and head coach Mike D’Antoni on Tuesday continued to emphasize patience as Bryant has only just began practicing a few days and still has areas that he still needs to improve.
“I wouldn’t say ‘limitations,'” Bryant said. “I think there’s areas where it still needs to get stronger in terms of the jumping and being able to plant quickly and change directions and things like that. Those are areas where you just have to get stronger … but I could adjust my game and play at a pretty high level right now.”
As for how Bryant looked in Tuesday’s practice, both were “pleasantly surprised” by the progress the 35-year-old has made up to this point in his rehabilitation.
“He hasn’t played since April but he looks pretty good,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know why that surprises me, but it does. He was up and down pretty good. A little rusty here and there, but good.”
When asked if Bryant could make a return in the Lakers’ next game on Friday against the Golden State Warriors, which is the team that he suffered the injury against last April, D’Antoni did not completely shoot down the possibility.
“Well, nothing is impossible, but that would surprise me – yes,” D’Antoni said.
And as for Sunday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, D’Antoni voiced the same opinion.
“I don’t know when the surprise goes,” D’Antoni said. “We have to urge caution. It’s going to be a little bit.”
Bryant’s scoring ability is much needed for the Lakers as this season without him the team through 12 games hold a 5-7 record, which is currently 11th best in the Western Conference, with their highest scorer being Jodie Meeks at 13.7 points per game. But where Los Angeles misses Bryant the most is late in games, which was evident in Friday’s loss 89-86 to the Memphis Grizzles that was just a one-point game with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
If Bryant does indeed return this month, it would be in one of the five remaining games as they play at the Staples Center on Friday against the Warriors and Sunday against the Kings before taking off on the road next week for games against the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons.
So once Bryant returns, he knows that he may have to modify his game to be an effective player on the floor for the Lakers.
“There’s certain things that I used to do that I can’t do now,” Bryant said. “I won’t try to do them. You’ve got to figure out other ways.
“I just got to go with the flow and just react. If you have limitations, you have to be honest with yourself and self-assess. If you have those limitations, you have to figure out a way to be effective around those. You can’t be stubborn about it.”
Whenever Bryant decides to take the court, one thing is for sure: all eyes will be on him just as it has been in his whole career, and that is when he has performed at his best. So with that said, when Bryant steps back onto the floor in a game for the first time this season, expect for him to give it his all on the floor like he has done throughout his 19-year career.
Photo Credit: Lakers.com
Bob Garcia IV
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