Mike D'Antoni: Kobe takes 'big step'

Updated: December 4, 2013, 8:36 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash returned to Los Angeles Lakers practice Tuesday. However, one of the guards appears closer to a return to game action than the other.

Bryant, who hasn't played in a game since tearing the Achilles tendon in his left leg nearly eight months ago, scrimmaged for 30 to 45 minutes, according to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant scrimmaged for 30 to 45 minutes Tuesday, according to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.

"Today was a good day," D'Antoni said of Bryant's first practice with the team since before the Lakers' three-game trip, nearly two weeks ago. "We'll see tomorrow how he reacts and everything, but today was a big step forward."

D'Antoni would not say whether Bryant's practice performance Tuesday meant he will be playing in the Lakers' next game, Friday on the road against the Sacramento Kings.

"We don't want to jump the gun. We don't know," D'Antoni said. "We'll see if he's able, but like I said, today, it all looks good."

D'Antoni said Bryant, 35, was able to do "everything" during the first of three consecutive practices the Lakers have scheduled this week leading up to the Kings game.

"He's Kobe," D'Antoni said. "Practice is going to be different for him than the game, but he controls the game and I didn't see anything he couldn't do."

One thing Bryant didn't do much of during the final portion of practice that the media was privy to was shoot (although he did have a breakaway left-handed dunk, jumping off his right leg -- the one without the Achilles tear). Instead, Bryant played more of a facilitator role with a first unit that also included Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Wesley Johnson, with Jordan Hill and Shawne Williams splitting time at the other forward spot.

"He does that in practice sometimes," D'Antoni said of Bryant not attempting a single shot during the approximately 20 minutes of the scrimmage that reporters were allowed to watch. "I think he goes back and forth. He can get a shot when he wants to, and I think he feels that."

The Lakers' most accomplished facilitator, Nash, scrimmaged for only about 10 minutes with the second unit before being pulled off the court at the behest of Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

While Nash, who has missed the Lakers' past 10 games with nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings, said he felt "much improved" after spending last week in Vancouver, British Columbia, with personal trainer Rich Celebrini, he did not sound ready to return Friday against the Kings.

"I don't know if it's out of the realm, but it's probably very unlikely and very doubtful," Nash said.

D'Antoni said the team plans to incrementally increase Nash's workload in the Lakers' next two practices.

"It's such a tricky situation because I think typically you'd say, 'OK, you practiced 10 [minutes] today,' if I practiced 20 tomorrow and 30 on Thursday, I'd play on Friday," Nash said. "I think right now, regardless of how well I practice this week, there's still some other objective and subjective tests to make sure this is sustainable and it's not something that's still as tenuous as it's been recently when you feel good enough to go out and play, you play and it just deteriorates. So, it takes a lot of resolve to continue on that path every day and do the right things, to strengthen and give yourself a chance."

It was an eventful day of practice, with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak as well as the team's physician, Dr. Steve Lombardo, observing the session from the sideline along with injured guard Jordan Farmar.

Farmar was diagnosed with a left hamstring tear Monday that is expected to keep him out of the lineup for four weeks, but both D'Antoni and Nash stressed that Farmar's status won't affect how Nash approaches his own rehabilitation.

"I don't know if I can have that urgency," Nash said. "I think my nature is to play through things. I've done that my whole career, but I think that's foolish for me at this stage. If I race to come back Friday and it's not quite right, I could be out forever or for months. So, I think it's really important whether I can play or not Friday to make the right decisions and not be hasty. Because I think sometimes the staff has to temper my outlook. I think, 'Oh yeah, I'm feeling good. I want to play Friday.' And sometimes they have to be the ones to say, 'That's stupid. You're jeopardizing the rest of the season by playing too soon.'"

The Lakers do not have any immediate plans to add another point guard to the roster to make up for Farmar's absence, according to a team source. Bryant can offer some relief at the position when he returns, and D'Antoni said Xavier Henry proved he was capable to man the point if need be based on his performance in the Lakers' 114-108 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

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