Kobe Bryant practiced for a third consecutive day Thursday and said he felt improvement in his left ankle.
“It feels stronger this morning than it did yesterday before practice,” Bryant said, “and it’s less sore now than it was after last practice, so that’s progression.”
So, does that mean he will make his season debut Sunday when the Lakers play the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center?
“I’m trying,” said Bryant, who has been sidelined since April by a torn Achilles’ tendon. “I mean, we’ve got to see how it feels tonight. I’m going to try to get another hard session in and then tomorrow morning try to push it again and the same thing tomorrow evening and just continue to keep on measuring it.”
Bryant said he had already experienced enhanced range of motion in the ankle from a previous series of consecutive practices last month.
“After the first day or so the last time I practiced, my range of motion became restricted and everything kind of locked up and I wasn’t able to run and change directions and sprint like I really wanted to,” Bryant said, “I don’t feel like I have any limitations [now], really. The change of gear is not quite where I want it to be, but it’s easy to compensate through that and go out there and be effective.”
There was a rarity at practice: Bryant played with the second team, though it was only to allow the first-teamers to prepare for their game Friday against Sacramento.
Bryant spent the portion of practice reporters were allowed to observe shooting jumpers and free throws. He swished several long three-pointers and seemed to move with ease.
“I’m not jumping through the gym by any means,” Bryant said, “but I don’t need to be able to do that in order to be a great player.”
Bryant said he needed to break up lingering scar tissue in his ankle through movement and therapy. He said he was pleased with his conditioning but still needed to get into basketball shape.
“The pull-up jump shot, the fadeaways and things like that, my sea legs aren’t quite there yet to be able to do that,” Bryant said. “The skill is there — I’ve worked on it quite a bit — and the strength is there, so now it’s just trying to get those game legs.”
With point guards Steve Nash (nerve damage in back) and Jordan Farmar (torn hamstring) sidelined indefinitely, Bryant said he could help with ballhandling duties upon his return.
“It’s no different than how I finished the season last year, when I had to be able to facilitate and score when the defense dictates,” Bryant said.
Bryant said he would not accompany his teammates north for their game against the Kings, remaining in Southern California for further workouts.
“I’m not going up to lovely Sacramento,” he deadpanned.
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