Mike D’Antoni optimistic about Kobe Bryant’s possible return Sunday vs Toronto

Kobe Bryant at Laker's practice, Dec 3, 2012. Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze

Kobe Bryant at Laker’s practice, Dec 3, 2012. Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze

SACRAMENTO –Mike D’Antoni uttered two words that would leave any Laker fan gleeful on the chances Kobe Bryant returns when the Lakers play Sunday against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center.

“Pretty good,” D’Antoni said.

Hold your wagers, though.

“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.”

Except that Bryant won’t play when the Lakers (9-9) visit the Sacramento Kings (4-11) here tonight at Sleep Train Arena. Bryant didn’t travel with the Lakers so he could continue rehabbing his left Achilles tendon. Bryant worked out Friday morning at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, and plans to practice later this afternoon near his Newport Beach residence.

Bryant had participated in three consecutive practices this week, in which 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.

Lakers guard Steve Nash traveled with the team, but he sounded doubtful he will return Sunday against Toronto as he continues healing nerve issues in his back. Lakers forward Chris Kaman also missed morning shootaround because of recurring back issues that kept him sidelined before recently falling out of the rotation.

But most of the focus centers on Bryant’s return and how a team depending on various castoffs adjust their play with him in the lineup.

“They never played with Kobe so a lot of times they’ll stand around and watch him,” D’Antoni said. “We understand we’ve played a certain way so we’ll have to guard against that. I think what he brings mostly is he’s one of the best players in the gam and he’s down there in the fourth quarter. I think he’ll try to get guys to load up on him to make sure he’s carrying the wagon and get everyone to jump on us and go. We have to be careful about not just standing around and watching.”


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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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