No matter how relentless Kobe Bryant chips away at rehabbing his left Achilles tendon, it appears he’ll still have to push more before nearing the finish line.
On the same time Los Angeles had a rare dreary Wednesday with rain, Bryant greeted reporters at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo wearing a pair of shades and a possible suggestion that hardly would bring much cheer to this city.
Bryant said he needs three weeks of hard conditioning so he can fully restore his stamina, explosiveness and flexibility before returning to play. He said he will know when that moment comes when he feels comfortable running and jumping without feeling like he has what he called “Bambi legs.”
“That’s when you get hurt,” Bryant said. “I’ve been doing this stuff for a while and that’s the process I’ve always been on, about three strong weeks of pushing, pushing and stamina.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers remain exactly 20 days before their season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers at Staples Center. Does that mean Bryant definitely won’t return then?
“I didn’t say anything,” Bryant said. “I just keep it all open right now. I don’t know why you guys are so hell bent on timelines. That’s ridiculous. It’s entertaining to me. When I’m ready, I’m ready.”
The Lakers haven’t offered any timeline beyond their initial estimate when Bryant tore his Achilles in mid-April that he’d stay sidelined for at least six to nine months, leaving the window possible for Bryant to return between mid-October and mid-January. Bryant will accompany the Lakers for their game Thursday against the Sacramento Kings at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, as well as their week-long trip to China where the team will play a pair of exhibition games against the Golden State Warriors in Beijing (Oct. 15) and Shanghai (Oct. 18).
All that traveling won’t be new for Bryant. He spent last week in Germany undergoing Orthokine treatment on his surgically repaired right knee. That procedure entails Bryant’s blood being drawn, spun in a centrifuge and then reinjected into the knee in hopes to reduce the inflammation. He then posted a picture of his knee on his Instagram account that showed him receiving acupuncture.
How did the trip go?
“It was cold,” Bryant said in playful sarcasm. “Everything was great. I just felt like having a vacation.”
Sounds like a painful vacation.
“It was,” Bryant said.
But a necessary one, providing one of many examples Bryant’s doing to prepare for himself for the larger workload.
He has progressed toward running his fully body weight on a weight-bearing treadmill. To maximize flexibility and mobility in his Achilles tendon, Bryant has performed calf raises throughout the day. And well, it appears, Bryant will have to change his diet after allowing himself to indulge occasionally on sugar cookies and donuts during his recovery.
“I got to get my fat [behind] in shape,” Bryant said. “I had six months of eating whatever the hell I wanted to eat and not running and stuff like that caught up to me. I have to get in shape.”
It sounds like he’s anxious to start that next step.
“I’ll be happy when I can get out there on the floor and do what I do best,” Bryant said. “All of this right now is just the process to get to that point.”
A process that has entailed the usually confident Bryant feeling self-doubtful about how he’ll overcome such a challenge.
When do those feelings emerge?
“I’m not sure what triggers those moments or why they come,” Bryant said. “It’s just an ongoing process that seems like this is going to go on forever. You have those moments where you doubt yourself a little bit. But I try not to let it sit with me. I try to use it as motivation to get on the floor.”
It hardly sounds glamorous. But Bryant simply refuses to deviate from his regimented routine that calls for daily physical therapy, a routine he described as a “marathon.”
Bryant had surgery the day after his injury. During the offseason, the Lakers training staff traveled with Bryant during trips to China, Italy, Brazil and France so he could squeeze in rehab during Nike promotional tours and vacations. When he was in Los Angeles, Bryant visited the Lakers’ practice facility every day. Before his trip to Germany, Bryant performed some light shooting and jogging, reporting “no discomfort” as well as “no setbacks or soreness.”
“Honestly, I just get up and just do it,” Bryant said. “I try not to think about it. Just get up and it’s almost like Groundhog Day. Just go to work. Some days are more exciting than others. But I just roll out of bed and go to work.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at email@example.com