Nearly eight months after tearing his Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant made his season debut against Toronto on Sunday evening. He played 28 minutes, but acknowledged his body felt fine on Monday post practice.
“It feels good,” Bryant said. “It feels really good, actually. I felt better after the game than I even did before.”
It has been a general progression for Bryant from nearly three weeks ago when he experienced “general soreness” after practicing hard two straight days to just last week to where his range of motion had improved considerably. Now it’s a matter of making adjustments on the floor as he continues to see more court time.
“You go out there and play, see what you can do, see where you’re at now and adjust accordingly,” Bryant said. “I made some pretty good reads and got my guys some pretty good looks, but as far as my floor game, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.”
He recorded nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, but also committed eight turnovers. Bryant and the coaching staff both understand that it will take some time before he returns to his normal self.
“It’s going to be awhile,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He hasn’t played in eight months. It’ll take awhile for him to get on par, but he’ll get there. It takes everybody to get back in a groove and get his legs. He’ll definitely be better anytime he goes out.”
Along with Bryant still trying to find his timing, the team is also trying to integrate him into the lineup. Pau Gasol stated it would take time for him to be his normal self, too, and to also find a comfort level on the court amongst everybody.
“It’s just positioning and changing rhythms out there,” Gasol said. “I think mainly that’s what it’s going to take – understanding where he’s going to be, where the ball is going to go, the amount of plays and what type of plays we’ll run most often. That’s the bigger challenge we’re going to face.”
With the Lakers about to play five contests in one week, including a road trip that entails four games in five nights, Bryant has his mind set on what he wants to accomplish starting Tuesday night against Phoenix.
“Do the same thing I did in the first game, but just do it better,” Bryant said. “Keep those turnovers under control, get my guys in position to be successful and see if I can make a couple shots in a row.”