This past Saturday, Kobe Bryant participated in his first practice since tearing his Achilles against the Golden State Warriors in April. He participated in some 5-on-0 drills without a defense while teammates said that he looked much better than expected. That was a huge step toward his return to the court, and according to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, the medical staff helped him take the next big step.
Bryant has full medical clearance, I was told Sunday by someone in a position to have such knowledge—meaning he can do anything and everything without restriction as the recovery from his ruptured left Achilles tendon nears its conclusion.
Lakers coaches and basketball operations staff are all content to wait for Bryant to decide in his own mind when he’s ready to resume one of the greatest careers in basketball history after one of the worst injuries that can befall any basketball player.
With full medical clearance from the medical staff, there aren’t any limitations on what Bryant is able to do on the court. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will see Bryant fully participating in practice or in games right away. His full medical clearance means that the onus on his return is fully on him.
Bryant will likely have a few weeks of practicing before he returns to game action, especially considering that he is still not fully comfortable with the flexibility of the joint in his ankle, and will need to test it in practices before engaging in full game competition.
Even with full clearance, though, Bryant is not expected to jump right back into game action Friday night against Golden State or even the next week of Thanksgiving. Bryant wants to test his ankle joint and see how it responds, which he will get to on an initial basis with full-scale team practices set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
In testing himself, Bryant intends to be thorough. That’s why he surprised teammates by how driven he was in that team workout on a quiet Saturday meant to be a light day in the gym for the Lakers. Said teammate Jordan Hill, “I thought he wasn’t going to go that hard, but he was really pushing it.”
There still isn’t a timetable for Bryant’s return to the court, but it’s looking more like it could be within the first couple weeks of December, before the Christmas day game that many assumed Bryant selected when he changed his Twitter avatar to “1225”.
Even with a 5-7 record, there is room for optimism with this Lakers team as they have looked much better than many expected through the first 12 games of the season, and it looks like head coach Mike D’Antoni is figuring out how to put the individuals on his team in the best position to succeed, making it easier for them to work as a collective unit with everyone starting to fit into a defined role.
The eventual return of Bryant can ultimately take a team that’s playing relatively well to a step above their current play, as the Lakers failed to execute down the stretch in four of their seven losses this season — something that Bryant can help with for this team more than anything else.
Pau Gasol Discusses The Evolution Of Jordan Hil