Kobe Bryant mixes rehab, vacation in Italy

He’s technically vacationing in Italy, but since when does Kobe Bryant ever take a day off?

So it should come as no surprise that Bryant went to Milanello Sports Centre to rehab his torn left Achilles tendon.

“I still have to work and improve on recovering from my injury.” Bryant told Forza Milan in Italian, which was then provided a translation to The Times’ Eric Pincus. “It is difficult because I can’t do much, but I am getting stronger every day and I am hoping to return by November or December.”

Bryant has offered that timetable before in recent weeks. Best-case scenario: Bryant could suit up for the Lakers’ season opener. Worst-case scenario: Bryant could sit out for at least the first month of the season. But that didn’t stop Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss to express optimism during Las Vegas Summer League that Bryant could return even during training camp.

“I would bet a lot of money that this guy comes back probably in the preseason,” Buss said Thursday during the NBA TV broadcast of the Lakers’ Las Vegas Summer League game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Thomas & Mack Center. “He’s real sharp in taking care of himself. He’s not going to rush anything just to get back to prove a point. He’s going to come back when he is right. He’s a machine and is inhuman that way. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can’t believe how much he progressed so far.”

When Bryant suffered the injury in mid-April against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers estimated he’d return within at least six to nine months. Regardless of whether he lives up to Buss’ prediction, Bryant’s rehab remains on track with the Lakers’ original timetable.

Not that Bryant won’t try to return as quickly as his body allows it. After all, he’s still chasing the thing that’s motivated him during his storied 17-year NBA career.

“Championship,” Bryant said. “It’s always the dream when you start the season you always want to win the championship. It’s the only thing that counts.”

And that’s part of the reasons why he visited AC Milan’s training facility.

“Milan has always been my favorite team,” said Bryant, who also roots for FC Barcelona. “I keep a Milan jersey and scarf in my locker room in Los Angeles, and I look at them every day.”

Bryant’s affection for “the Beautiful Game” remains deeply rooted. He grew up playing soccer in Italy. Bryant has attributed his superior footwork, strong fundamentals and consistent conditioning partly because of his soccer background. And he has attended plenty of soccer events, including the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and this summer’s Confederations Cup Final between Brazil and Spain.

Would Bryant move overseas and play soccer professionally after retiring from the NBA?

“Yes, yes why not? I will come here to play and have fun,” Bryant said, jokingly. “You can make me the goalkeeper and they can take some shots at my head.”

First things first.

Bryant’s still trying to ensure he can return to the basketball court. Hence, he’s more than willing to interrupt his vacation time so that his Achilles heals as quickly as possible.

“It takes a lot of hard work to become a champion,” Bryant said. “When you wake up in the morning you must start working like it was the last day in your life.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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  • JustJoannie

    Man could you imagine the place he is staying in? I mean come on now, NBA superstar with more money then he knows what to do with? I honestly just imagine him staying in one of those huge Luxury Villas in Tuscany with a pool, maid service, personal chef, the works! Ugh I envy that life!