Kobe Bryant was right in front of Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni Wednesday morning. Literally 10 feet away, shooting jumpers on a nearby basket. So close, and yet so hard to tell just how close Bryant is to returning to the court for the first time since rupturing his Achilles last April.
“I don’t think anyone knows. He even doesn’t know,” D’Antoni said. “He’ll go full blow today [at practice] and then we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. If that happens tomorrow, Friday looks good and we’ll do that for sure.”
But . . .
“[Lakers trainer Gary Vitti] will talk with doctors and talk with Kobe and let me know if there’s restrictions or if it’s better for him to play in short bursts or longer. That will be decided probably the day of the game.”
In other words, check back again three times on Thursday and four times on Friday and five times every other day until Bryant puts on that uniform and declares himself fit to return to the court.
And make no mistake, it will be Bryant making the final call. He’s been cleared to play by the Lakers training staff for some time now. But with an injury this serious, and a recovery time that’s been this extensive, “cleared to play” isn’t nearly enough.
“I don’t want him to go until he’s comfortable and confident in playing and doing whatever he needs to do out there,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “We don’t want him to play Friday if he’s not ready to play. We don’t want him to play Sunday if he’s not ready to play Sunday. . . . Just whenever he’s ready.”
Bryant is scheduled to address the media after Thursday’s practice, but there likely won’t be a final decision on his status for Friday until closer to gametime.
Just who will be playing point guard for the Lakers in the next couple of days is still up in the air, too. Starter Steve Blake has been limited with a sore right elbow. His backup, Jordan Farmar, is out four weeks with a torn hamstring. Steve Nash is just getting back on the practice court after receiving treatment for nerve root irritation in his back.
The Lakers have been discussing internally whether to add a point guard with so many injuries to their top three guards, but likely wont do anything until they have a better idea of when Bryant will be back. He’s capable of running the point, when healthy. So is reserve Xavier Henry. Blake will give them what he can, although he was shooting jumpers left-handed for the second straight day.