Kobe Bryant is getting closer to playing his first game of the 2013-2014 NBA season. The Los Angeles Lakers star has yet to suit up for the team, but he has made positive strides towards a return in recent days.
Over the weekend, Bryant began practicing with L.A. It marked the first time that he participated in practice with his teammates since he tore his Achilles tendon in April. The step, though, was just a small one in the shooting guard’s quest to get back on the court. He took part in some drills and worked on jump shooting, but did not push himself to the limit.
“I know we're all excited, everybody's excited, and I'm sure he's excited, but [it's] a little bit premature right now,” head coach Mike D'Antoni said Sunday via the L.A. Times. “You're dealing with, ‘Is he sore today? Is there a setback tomorrow?' That's the first step and there's a lot of steps to be taken, so I just think we need to be cautious. We just better be cool and chill out a little bit.”
Despite the possible concerns, Bryant first few days back at practice went very well. As a result, he’s been medically cleared to resume all basketball activities. The latest injury update has Bryant able to play without any restrictions, according to reports.
"He looked real good," said Jordan Hill, according to the team's official website. "He was going real hard. I thought he wasn't going to be able to go that hard but he was really pushing it. And, I know he's not ready yet but he's coming along and he should be ready pretty soon."
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Doctors have said that Bryant is allowed to play, but that doesn't mean he will get in a game right away. A team spokesman says there is no timetable for a return date. The future Hall of Famer won’t take the court until his conditioning has allowed him to perform at a high level.
“I’ve got to get my fat ass in shape,” Bryant told the media in October. “Six months of eating whatever the hell I wanted to eat and not running, stuff like that. I’ve got to get in shape.”
The thought of Bryant coming back in the Lakers’ next game is possible but unlikely, since the team won’t play again until Friday when they host the Golden State Warriors. He began sprinting and training almost three weeks ago, which is the amount of time Bryant said he would need to get back into game shape.
The veteran has told reporters that he could see himself playing this month. The Lakers close out November with three road games in Washington, Brooklyn and Detroit, so a season debut at Staples Center is in jeopardy.
Bryant will likely be gradually added back into full-time play, as D'Antoni is not expected to play the 35-year-old his typical 38 minutes a game due to potential soreness. The star guard is also so valued that rushing him back onto the court would be a questionable decision.
Without Bryant, the Lakers have a losing record through 12 games. At 5-7, they hold the 11th spot in the Western Conference. Jodie Meeks has taken most of Bryant’s minutes at shooting guard. He leads the team with 13.7 points per game.
Last season, Bryant led the club with a 27.3 scoring average.