His pre-game routine usually entails having treatment, studying the game plan and mentally preparing himself for the challenge ahead. But these are different times for Kobe Bryant.
So he spent time at his locker stall before the Lakers’ game Friday against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center doing something he rarely does.
Talk with reporters.
He held court for about 15 minutes on topics ranging from the Lakers’ play, Derrick Rose’s return from an ACL injury, Allen Iverson’s retirement and how he resisted eating Halloween candy. Bryant also addressed the most important topic surrounding his left Achilles tendon.
Bryant said he spent the past week ramping up his activity, mixing his running on both a weight-bearing treadmill and on flat surfaces. He also considered it part of the first week of his self-required three weeks of conditioning before he feels comfortable returning to the court. Bryant rolled his eyes on whether that he meant he would return as quickly as two weeks from now when the Lakers play Nov. 15 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“This week has been pretty well,” Bryant said. “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.”
Bryant was hardly as aggressive last week with his rehab.
After participating in some light shooting and jogging drills two weeks ago China, Bryant said he “scaled back” his activity, mostly running on a weight-bearing treadmill. But Bryant echoed the Lakers’ insistence that he hasn’t experienced any setbacks. Instead, he reduced his workload simply because he wanted to restore more flexibility and range in motion after essentially remaining idle for the past six months since injuring his Achilles.
“We got through the hard part in terms of preserving the tightness,” Bryant said. “Now you have to make sure you’re not putting yourself in jeopardy with other parts of the body. being 35, you really have to pay attention to that. You don’t want to create a string of injuries that then it’s one after the other. You want to take care of it, handle it and come back at full strength.”
When that will happen remains anyone’s guess. The Lakers haven’t updated their timetable other than their initial estimation that Bryant would stay sidelined at least six to nine months, pinning his return possibly as late as mid-January.
Bryant wants to return as quickly as possible, obviously. But he dismissed the popular notion that he struggles with staying patient.
“That’s a misconception. There’s nothing I can do about it,” Bryant said. “I measure my injuries very well. If it’s something I can play through and it won’t get worse, I’ll play. if it’s something that will get worse, I have to make those decisions.”
So to keep himself engaged, Bryant has taken a behind-the-scenes leadership role. He said he’s actively talking with teammates about on-court strategy, most notably with wing players Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry.
“It’s tough when you’re sidelined for so long and not feel a part of the process,” Bryant said. “On a certain level, it’s always going to be that way because you’re not out there every day on the practice court or even watching practice for that matter. You’re doing treatment and working out and things like that. It’s very easy to lose that connectivity.”
In a way, that has already happened.
Bryant has maintained a low profile since the beginning of the regular season. Bryant has sat behind the team’s bench and has occasionally given advice to teammates. But he hasn’t been as overt about it as he has in other seasons when he’d instruct with a clipboard in his hand. Bryant has also avoided providing commentary on his Twitter account, something that irked Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni during the beginning of last season’s first-round sweep to the Spurs. Bryant’s rehab often overlaps with the Lakers’ practices.
“It’s tough,” Bryant said. “But I get a chance to communicate with them a lot more than if I was playing with them in terms of helping them see things that it was tough to see in the heat of battle. I’m trying to get them to speak the language of execution and reading defenses and things like that.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org