- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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Bryant, who previously told reporters he would need three weeks of "rigorous conditioning" before he considered making his debut for the 2013-14 season, said this past week of work applies to that timeline he scheduled.
"I think this is a good start," Bryant said before the Lakers played the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. "This week was a good start. I was able to run and run pretty well, so I would probably count this week."
The 18-year veteran had "scaled back" his workouts after the team returned from a preseason trip to China that he used to test his limits, but he said he's pushing himself again.
"I'm running a little bit more, a little bit more aggressively," Bryant said. "It feels fine."
Bryant scoffed when a reporter suggested that, by his own math, the five-time champion was now only two weeks away from returning. But Bryant did allow for some optimism.
"This week has been pretty [good]," he said. "I've been doing OK. I've been able to push pretty hard, and the next day, come back and push hard again. The recovery of it has been pretty good this week."
Bryant is sprinting on both flat surfaces and an altered-gravity treadmill when he is at the team's practice facility. The latter allows him to run while reducing the percentage of his body weight to decrease the impact on his joints.
He said he is more concerned with the rest of his body than his actual Achilles at this stage of the rehab.
"The Achilles is what it is," Bryant said. "We've gotten through the hard part with it in terms of preserving its tightness. Now you got to make sure you're not putting yourself in jeopardy for other parts of the body, and being 35 [years old], you really have to pay attention to that because you don't want to create a string of injuries that then just it's one after the other."
In particular, Bryant said his left ankle is still tender after being stabilized for so long while the Achilles was healing.
"It's really lack of flexibility and range of motion in the ankle joint. It's not anything to do with the [Achilles] tendon, necessarily," Bryant said. "From having the ankle locked up for so long, it won't move. Or wouldn't move. So, when you have that limited range of motion, I don't have to tell you the domino effect that that has for other parts of the body."
Bryant reiterated this was an injury he could not return from until he was 100 percent healthy, unlike some of the bumps and bruises he has soldiered through in the past.
"I measure my injuries very well," Bryant said. "If it's something that I can play through and it won't get worse, I'll play. If it's something that's going to get worse, I have to make those decisions. All the injuries that I've had I've been very fortunate because they haven't been things that can get worse -- from cartilage in the knee, to the broken bones in the fingers to whatever. They've been things that if I continue to play, they'll be painful, but they're not going to get worse."
Bryant has been relegated to sitting behind the bench for the Lakers' first two games of the season. He said he struggles with that role but appreciates the chance to coach the Lakers' trio of young guards in Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry.
"It's tough," Bryant said. "But I get a chance to communicate with them a lot more than I would when I'm playing in terms of helping them see things that are tough to see when you're in the heat of the battle and trying to get them speaking the language of execution and reading defenses and things like that.
"I mentor them all pretty much. We all talk a great deal, and I try to do what I can to share whatever I know."
Being in the position to be a mentor means Bryant is far closer to the end of his career than the beginning, of course. The occasion of the Lakers and Spurs playing each other with neither him nor Tim Duncan on the floor for the first time since 1996, combined with Allen Iverson's official retirement earlier in the week, put Bryant in a wistful mood.
"It's a trip; it's a little weird to sit there and watch that," Bryant said of Iverson's retirement. "Because, I can remember when we came in the league and being at rookie orientation and all this sort of stuff. It's a little strange to see all the guys that I came in the league with now stepping away from the game."