A mere seven months removed from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his season and any chance the L.A. Lakers had of making a postseason run, superstar guard Kobe Bryant returned to practice on Saturday afternoon, according to USA Today.
Originally expected to return before Christmas from the debilitating injury that before has kept players sidelined for up to a year, Bryant’s rehab has reportedly gone well enough that he could come back even sooner.
Bryant reportedly participated in light drills during the short practice. Unfortunately, an exact date is unclear at this time. He said in an interview with NBA TV that he would play immediately in a playoff game.
The 35-year-old put on a rejuvenated display last season, arguably one of his best, averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists while shooting 46 percent from the floor.
His incredible run, however, couldn’t lift L.A. any further than the No. 7 seed in the West, as the team struggled with injuries and chemistry issues between Bryant and now-Houston Rocket center Dwight Howard.
At 4-7 the Lakers are in need of not only Bryant’s skills but also his leadership. Veteran point guard Steve Nash has missed five games this season, including the last three, leaving L.A.’s backcourt largely in the hands of Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, and Nick Young.
Splitting time and starts with Young, Meeks has started the year on fire, shooting 48 percent from three for a Lakers-high 13.2 points per game. Young is notching 12.5 points, and Blake leads the squad with 6.5 assists for the second best assist-turnover rate in the league.
Between now and a Dec. 25 showdown with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, the Lakers have 17 games for Bryant to make his comeback. Ten are on the road, including four straight in the middle of December.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni could make Bryant’s return easier in front of the home Staples Center crowd, and work him back slowly, while closely monitoring his minutes.
The Los Angeles Daily News also reported that D’Antoni seemed doubtful that Bryant would even return before Thanksgiving.