SACRAMENTO — In a two-minute video posted on his Facebook account, Kobe Bryant announced he will officially return when the Lakers host the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center.
The two-minute, eight second video starts with the title, “Seasons of Legend.” It ends with Bryant’s return date on Dec. 8, 2013. In between, the video show wind, rain and snow battering Bryant’s No. 24 jersey. His jersey eventually rips in half. And then sunlight appears. All the imagery surely captures Bryant trying to overcome a torn left Achilles tendon that kept him sidelined for the past eight months and his determination to overcome it.
The 35-year-old Bryant will try to he can play at an elite level that has already ensured him five NBA championships and a fourth-place standing on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The Lakers showed faith both in Bryant’s recovery and appreciation for how he built the team’s brand through 17 years by signing him last week to a two-year, $48.5 million extension that both ensures he stays the NBA’s highest paid player and that he’ll play through at least the 2015-16 season in what would mark a 20-year NBA career.
“It’s not an easy thing to do to be out that long,” said Lakers guard Steve Nash, who also remains sidelined with nerve issues in his back. “I think it should be a real slow progression. The most important thing is he hasn’t had any setbacks. He’s getting better and better in the coming weeks.”
Bryant had participated in three consecutive practices this week, in which Lakers coach D’Antoni described him as “good” and “a lot better.” After Thursday’s practice, Bryant reported improvement in his range of motion, how his ankle feels the following morning, his conditioning and his driving. But Bryant still sees weaknesses in his cutting and jumping. He also noted scar tissue remains in his left ankle joint, which limits his mobility.
With the Lakers (9-9) playing the Sacramento Kings (4-11) tonight at Sleep Train Arena, Bryant stayed in Los Angeles. He worked out Friday morning at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, and plans to practice later this afternoon near his Newport Beach residence.
But Bryant’s progress still left D’Antoni optimistic to describe his chances to return beforehand as “pretty good.”
“I just opened up a can of worms,” D’Antoni said, chuckling. “I think odds are good, but they could be bad. I don’t know anything.”
Now he does.
Bryant will suit up Sunday in what will mark his first mark in trying to prove he hasn’t lost a step.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org