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LOS ANGELES -- Even though Kobe Bryant's rehabilitation has ticked past the seven-month mark into a recovery timeline that was originally set at six to nine months by the Los Angeles Lakers, the star guard still considers himself to be progressing quickly.
"I feel like I'm ahead of schedule," Bryant told former teammate Rick Fox in an interview for NBA TV on Friday. "If there was a playoff game tonight, I'd play. I'd play. I don't know how effective I'd be, but I would play.
|One day after appearing at Staples Center, above, to present a check on behalf of the Lakers to the typhoon relief fund in the Philippines, Kobe Bryant was at practice with teammates for the first time since tearing his Achilles.|
"The fadeaway still works, the ballhandling, being able to post. Those are things that I can do right now. But it's not the playoffs, thank god."
Bryant has been back on the practice court going through shooting drills during the past week, according to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. The attempts have been more of the game-ready, jump-shot variety than the modified set shooting that Bryant was already able to do during training camp.
"Maybe a little bit more than tippy-toe," D'Antoni said of Bryant's form for the shooting. "I look out [at Bryant working out] every once in awhile. I haven't heard back that he's ready to practice or anything like that. So, he's just progressing. I think it's better than yesterday, but I don't know yet [when Bryant will return to practice]."
Bryant said he has purposely avoided focusing on a specific return date as he continues to ramp up his rehab from Achilles surgery.
"It's tough because once I've set that as a target then I'm hell-bent at doing it at all costs, even to the detriment of the damn Achilles," Bryant told NBA TV. "I try to just stay in the moment and really try to listen to my body. The biggest thing is I have not done anything athletically for six months, seven months. You got to get your body back in shape. And doing that, if I was healthy -- completely healthy -- you have that much time off and get back in shape and your knee is going to ache, your ankle is going to hurt, your back is going to be out. So you got to go through your progressions as you normally would over the course of a summer."
More than a month ago, during the Lakers' preseason trip to China, Bryant was asked by reporters if he would be able to play if the Lakers were in the playoffs and responded, "Probably."
Last week in Houston, the 35-year-old Bryant said he considered himself two weeks into the three-week period of "rigorous conditioning" that he would need before feeling ready to consider practicing.
Reporters on Friday did not get a chance to ask Bryant if he now considers those three weeks completed. When he emerged from the trainer's room and noticed the media crush waiting for him in front of his locker prior to the Lakers' game against the Memphis Grizzlies, he changed direction and headed to the players' lounge.
"I'm feeling good, I'm playing tomorrow," Bryant said, while walking away, before turning his head to look back at the reporters over his left shoulder and impart one final note. "I'm just kidding."
Bryant did make it onto the court Friday.
The 18-year veteran came out of the locker room in his warm-ups in between the first and second quarters to a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd in order to present the Philippines Red Cross with a $150,000 check on behalf of the Lakers to assist in the relief efforts for victims of the typhoon that hit the country last week.
While the date when Bryant tears off those warm-ups to actually play in a game again remains unknown, he said finding motivation is no problem at all.
"It's the enjoyment of the game, the love for it and then it's the low-hanging fruit of responding to this challenge," Bryant told NBA TV. "That's right there. It's very easy to get me going and hearing what everybody says and the countless times they write me off and all this other sort of stuff. So that's like really, really easy to hit that switch."