Kobe Bryant has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' season opener by head coach Mike D’Antoni, leading many fans to speculate on when the Black Mamba will make his triumphant debut during the 2013-14 season.
It seems that Bryant may be farther off than originally thought, as D’Antoni quickly dismissed any potential return for the opener last Friday when speaking to ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin.
The coach conceded that Bryant was still ahead of schedule but crushed any hope that the superstar would return Tuesday against the in-town rival Los Angeles Clippers:
"No. My God, I know he's Superman, but my God. He hasn't run yet.”
Bryant had recently admitted to McMenamin that his workouts have been “scaled back” since he returned from China, noting that he was “cranking it up” while overseas.
That’s not the best sign, although the 35-year-old shooting guard mentioned that he was taking it slowly in order to allow his surgically repaired Achilles to heal up and become more flexible.
To say the least, Bryant has been vague during this stage of his recovery. The closest thing to a timetable we have is when he informed Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times that he would need “three weeks of rigorous conditioning” in order to “get [his] fat ass in shape.”
That statement came nearly three weeks ago, but it does not appear that Bryant has been able to work out with the intensity required to get back in basketball shape.
As per McMenamin’s report, the Mamba has only been limited to simple spot shooting through training camp and isn’t even ready to practice with the team. Once he finally does, we will have a much clearer idea of when the veteran—going into his 18th NBA season—should be ready.
It would be optimistic to expect him back at any point during the first month of play. It seems that a December return is more likely but only if he is able to start running at full speed, get on the practice floor and start working out at high intensity levels.
D’Antoni refused to speculate on the subject, telling McMenamin:
He's making progress and he'll be back as soon as he can. No use worrying about it. You only worry about it when people don't work hard or are not doing what they're supposed to be doing. That's not a problem.
Bryant is one of the toughest players in the league, but his coach is right—he’s not Superman. It’s going to take him some time to recover fully and get back to his normal self. That’s just fine, as the Lakers need him to be at 100 percent if they are going to have any chance of making a run in 2013-14.
The Western Conference is loaded with good teams and L.A. is not one of them, not without a healthy Bryant in the lineup. The Mamba is smart enough to realize this and will patiently wait for a full recovery to return to the hardwood.
When that will be is something that no one truly knows, but don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.