He's (almost) baaaaaaack.
Kobe Bryant has been steadily moving forward in his rehab of a torn Achilles suffered last April, and on Saturday, he leaped a significant hurdle.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the 35-year-old superstar took part in Saturday's practice with the Los Angeles Lakers, the first time he has done so in over seven months:
After seven months rehabbing a torn Achilles, Kobe Bryant has returned to Lakers practice, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) November 16, 2013
And while rust is sure to be a factor for Mamba, who hasn't played an NBA game in 219 days (that's over 18 million seconds, if you were wondering), Pau Gasol had some optimistic words following practice, via ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:
Pau Gasol on how Kobe looked in his first full practice today,"He looked good. He looked like Kobe"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) November 16, 2013
More Pau on Kobe's first practice: "It was his first time back out there but he looked really good, which I'm very happy to see"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) November 16, 2013
Couple this news with the fact that Bryant told Rick Fox in an NBA TV interview, via ESPN's Dave McMenamin, that he could have played on Friday if it was a playoff game, and it's only a matter of time until the future Hall of Famer is back in Mike D'Antoni's lineup.
How many minutes will Bryant play per game this season?
It might be tough for Kobe to make it back for yesterday's game against Memphis, which is the contest many predicted for his return when he sent out a mysterious "#BearHunt" tweet, but somewhere right around Thanksgiving seems realistic at this point.
Whenever it happens, though, it will be compelling to see how effective Bryant is upon his return.
Over his magical 17-year career, he has proved to be one of the toughest competitors in the game, playing through pain, coming back early from injuries and producing when injuries, age or mileage might have suggested otherwise.
But Bryant has never come back from something as serious as this. Odds are he exceeds expectations because, well, he's Kobe. But it will be interesting to watch, nonetheless.
No matter how effective he may be, the 4-7 Lakers, who have dropped four of their past five, need him. And it goes beyond the obvious reason of him being one of the best players in the league.
Even if Kobe doesn't quite resemble the player he was before his Achilles injury, he gives the Lakers' backcourt, which is currently starting Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, a necessary playmaker who can score at will and take the pressure off those around him.
The Lakers have lots of valuable role players. Blake has tallied double-digit assists in three straight. Jordan Hill is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. Meeks, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson all play their own specific roles.
But outside of Pau Gasol, who has been playing at less than 100 percent, the Lakers don't have anyone who resembles a star. They don't have someone they can go to down the stretch or clear out for when they need a basket.
Bryant won't make the Lakers a title contender by himself, but games in Los Angeles are about to be a lot more enjoyable to watch.