A present for his 37th birthday arrived roughly 24 hours early for Kobe Bryant, a slight consolation to an otherwise frustrating year riddled with injuries.
Bryant revealed on his Instagram account that he began shooting drills on Saturday, roughly seven months after tearing a rotator cuff in his right shoulder that required season-ending surgery.
“First day back on the court shooting! Bout Damn time!!” Bryant wrote on his Instagram account before including hashtags for shoulderrecovery, 20thseason, drinkbodyarmor and lakers.
After wearing a sling for the first six weeks following surgery in late January, Bryant gradually increased his workload that entailed lower body exercises including squats, lunges and leg presses. But Lakers coach Byron Scott reported in early July that Bryant had not yet progressed to any shooting drills or upper body weight training. The Lakers have expected Bryant to make a full recovery at some point during training camp, but had not provided a concrete timetable on his short-term progression.
Bryant, who is in the final year of his contract worth $25 million, has suffered three season-ending injuries in consecutive years that included a torn left Achilles tendon (April 2013), a fractured left knee (Dec. 2013) and a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder (Jan. 2015). Those overlapping injuries has limited Bryant to only 41 combined games in the past two seasons. Still, Bryant has not decided definitively if his 20th NBA season will mark the last year of a storied career.
The Lakers are expected to conserve more of Bryant’s workloads this year, which could include reduced minutes and sitting out on back-to-back games.