NBA

Optimistic Kobe still unsure of return date

09/28 6:07 PM

Fresh off a transcontinental flight from Dubai that landed in Los Angeles just hours before the Los Angeles Lakers' media day, Kobe Bryant was still a long way away from proclaiming when he be fully recovered from his torn Achilles.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Fresh off a transcontinental flight from Dubai that landed in Los Angeles just hours before the Los Angeles Lakers' media day, Kobe Bryant was still a long way away from proclaiming when he will be fully recovered from his torn Achilles tendon.

"I don't think we really have a particular timetable as far as where I should be right now, but I'm feeling good," Bryant said.

The team's original timeline for the recovery of Bryant, who had surgery to repair the Achilles in April, was six to nine months.

The 35-year-old guard has been able to rehab on an altered-gravity treadmill and recently upped his body weight from 75 to 80 percent on the machine, according to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.

Bryant has also eased into on-court activity, beginning with ladder exercises to improve his footwork, but he has not attempted to sprint. Although he doesn't know just when his 18th season officially will begin, the five-time NBA champion sounded like someone who already had conquered his injury.

"Everybody was really concerned about this injury, and so was I, but the procedure and the therapy right afterwards and things like that really got me ahead of the curve," Bryant said. "So, it feels like the hard part's over."

Will Bryant play in the preseason? The regular-season opener? As late as Thanksgiving or Christmas, as teammate Steve Nash suggested earlier this week?

"I'm not expecting anything," D'Antoni said Saturday. "I don't know. He's going to do everything he can to try to get back as soon as he can. No one knows. He's day to day."

The fewest games Bryant ever has played in a non-lockout season is 65. Injuries never fully have derailed him during the season, but he's played through plenty of pain along the way.

"The mental aspect of it I don't concern myself too much with," said Bryant, who mentioned David Beckham, Mariano Rivera and Peyton Manning as other athletes who have fully returned from devastating injuries. "I can't do anything about it. If I'm going to hurt something, I'm going to hurt something so I don't waste my time really thinking about that. But, I do need to get in shape. I will get in shape. It doesn't take me too long to do that. I really work hard at it and when I get back out there on the court, I'll be good to go. I don't think I've ever really played a season where I'm 100 percent, so, 78 [percent] is fine."

What isn't fine, in Bryant's mind, is the Lakers lowering their expectations just because Dwight Howard chose to join the Houston Rockets in free agency or because media outlets are counting out the team.

"Our expectations are always the same going into every single season: It's to improve every day with the goal in mind of winning a championship," Bryant said. "It doesn't matter what anybody else is saying, that's the goal that we have."

As for Howard, Bryant seemed to be firmly looking past the All-Star center.

"If he would have came back, it would have been great. If he didn't ... It is what it is," Bryant said.

The Lakers adopted the same attitude when moving on, donning Dan Gadzuric, a training camp invitee on a nonguaranteed contract, with Howard's old No. 12. D'Antoni hoped the Lakers would use the memories of last season's disappointment to fuel them.

"We have a lot of talent on this team and hopefully we have a little chip on our shoulder," D'Antoni said. "I'm sure Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant -- the question mark is one's coming back from injury, one's a little older, one's this, one's that -- but you don't find any better players than them. It's just trying to get them healthy, try to keep them healthy and see what happens."

And no one's health is on the minds of Lakers fans as much as Bryant's.

"My goal is to play tonight," said Bryant, while admitting full well that's not possible. "So, it's about being smart about it and pacing it the right way and just seeing how it does. It's really a strength thing now and just seeing how the explosiveness holds up and how the recovery holds up after that."

Added Bryant: "Health is always a concern. That can really cripple a team, as it did for us last year. Hopefully we won't have to deal with those issues and won't have guys who are out for long periods of time."


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