Despite making steady progress surrounding his torn left Achilles, Kobe Bryant expressed uncertainty on when he’d actually return to the basketball court.
“I don’t know if I’ll be ready for opening night. I really don’t know,” said Bryant, referring to the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers. “I know I’m really, really ahead of schedule.”
Bryant made those remarks Thursday night at the Nokia Theatre during Kobe Up Close Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel,” with the the proceeds benefitting the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Foundation to fight homelessness.
In Bryant’s fight to recover from his injury, he maintained he hasn’t experienced any setbacks. He recently attended a Nike-sponsored trip to the China and the Philippines where he walked freely. But the Lakers haven’t altered their original timetable that he could be out at least six to nine months after suffering the injury April 12 against the Golden State Warriors.
Because of that reality, Bryant acknowledged the likelihood that he’ll take a reduced role.
“That’s the goal,” Bryant said. “We got a little younger and picked up a couple of wing players who I really think will help us tremendously next year — Nick Young and Wesley Johnson. I really look forward to them easing the load.”
So much that Bryant would reduce his minutes? Bryant downplayed whether heavy minutes contributed to his Achilles injury by calling it “just one of those freak situations.” But Bryant has averaged around 38 minutes per game in the last two seasons after he and the respective Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni coaching staffs openly hoped to play him around 32-34 minutes.
“I could sit back until June man,” Bryant said. “I just want that jewelry.”
The Lakers would only play that long if they make it to the NBA Finals, a prospect plenty find unlikely. That’s because the Lakers lost key players in Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace and Earl Clark. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets all boast superior youthful and depthful rosters. And, of course, uncertainty remains about Bryant’s recovery.
“I think we’ll finish 12th,” said Bryant, poking fun ESPN ranking them that far in the Western Conference. “ESPN gets stuff wrong all the time.”
*The Associated Press contributed to this report
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