Although Kobe Bryant did not speak to the media prior to Wednesday’s practice, his Los Angeles Lakers’ teammates and coach were surprisingly pleased at how far along Bryant was in his recovery process. They continued cautiously preaching patience, but the joy of having Bryant back at a level far greater than would be expected at this point was difficult to mask.
“(Bryant is) feeling good; he’s moving along,” Pau Gasol said before Wednesday’s practice. “I didn’t expect him to do as much this quick.”
"I didn’t have a chance to see what he has been able to do on his own, on the court,” Gasol hypothesized Bryant had been working out on his own. “For him to be able to go from running on a treadmill, and on the floor, to actually playing 5-on-5…there are certain steps you can’t really skip to feel comfortable and effective out there.”
However, Bryant did not go through the 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 drills with the team before getting on the floor. Gasol assumed Bryant had worked on those types of drills on his own.
“(Bryant is) a guy that is 24-7 committed to work and always working out at crazy hours,” Gasol reminded reporters. “That’s just who he is, and I’m sure he’s been able to do a lot of individual work when we’re not around.”
Before everyone ran to report the return would take place on Friday, Lakers' coach Mike D'Antoni stepped in.
“We’re going to have a few games before he comes back,” D’Antoni was quick to plant a seed of patience. “Biggest thing is getting him back in game type situations—game ready—and that’s just going to take a while.”
“I think he surprised everybody by how he did already, but again, a little bit different from practice than a game,” D’Antoni attempted to temper expectations.
After the team did some initial stretching and the media session was over, the Black Mamba strutted onto the court and loosened up before joining his teammates in some warm up drills. He made a pass, and he shot a jumper. He was back to playing basketball with his teammates.
He may have yawned a couple times, but he did not seem to be displaying any signs of slowing down from practice on Monday.
Now, everyone, his teammates and coaches included, plays the waiting game to see when no.24 will put on his game jersey.