It's one thing to read that Kobe Bryant has returned to practice with the Lakers and that he's been given full medical clearance following a 2012-13 season-ending surgery on his torn left Achilles. It's another to see it with your own eyes.
LakersNation.com provides the visuals of the most anticipated comeback of the NBA season. In the video, shot at L.A.'s practice on Tuesday, Bryant can be seen going through five-on-five work with his Lakers teammates.
The 15-time All-Star is joined on the purple squad by Pau Gasol and Steve Blake and matched up against Nick Young. He can be executing a variety of motions in a half-court setting: throwing a lob pass, cutting off the ball, pump-faking off the dribble, knocking down a turnaround jumper, operating out of a high screen-and-roll, throwing an ill-advised crosscourt pass, coming up short with an airball, draining a baseline shot, and sneaking backdoor for a lay-up.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Bryant said Tuesday that it's possible he will play before the end of November.
"I'm just trying to do what I normally do, figure some things out about my game -- what can I do at this stage, what I can't do at this stage," he said.
Bryant also said he added strength in all his off-court workouts.
"I'm able to hold defenders off pretty easily with my off hand and maintain position in the post and things like that. I’m much, much stronger now than I was," he said.
Bryant has six opportunities to make a return before December: Nov. 22 vs. the Warriors, Nov. 24 vs. the Kings, Nov. 26 at the Wizards, Nov. 27 at the Nets and Nov. 29 at the Pistons. The Lakers are 5-7 so far this season without their franchise guard.
ESPNLA.com reported Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's take on Bryant's progress.
"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."
Following the Achilles surgery in mid-April, Bryant’s initial timeline was set at 6-to-9 months, and he has inched past the the seven-month mark. Back in October, he traveled to Germany for platelet-rich plasma therapy on his right knee. Shortly after that trip, he told reporters that he would need at least “three weeks” of conditioning before he was ready to go.
Last week, Bryant told NBA TV that his recovery was progressing well.
“I feel like I’m ahead of schedule,” he said. “If there was a playoff game tonight, I’d play. I’d play. I don’t know how effective I would be but I would play. The fadeaway still works. The ball-handling, being able to post, those are things I can do right now. But it’s not the playoffs, thank God.” Bryant, 35, is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him an NBA-high $30.5 million. The five-time champion needs just 676 points to move past Michael Jordan for the No. 3 spot on the all-time scoring list. He averaged 27.3 points, 6 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game last season and earned All-Star and All-NBA First Team honors.