An Achilles injury can end a player's career, just ask former New York Giants All-Pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was still in tip-top shape when the injury derailed his career and Bryant is hoping that won't be the case for him. Bryant has steadfastly pushed his body to the limit in his rehabilitation process, but it's still uncertain when the 15-time All-Star will return.
According to Lakers spokesperson John Black, Bryant is "progressing well and has met all the targets and milestones in his rehabilitation." Black also added that it will be vital for Bryant to also build back his strength and endurance in his "knees, legs, back and core." Bryant will need his conditioning back in head coach Mike D'Antoni's break-neck offense and will be relied on again to carry the scoring load.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was third in the NBA last season with 27.3 points per game and visited Germany earlier this month to undergo more platelet-rich plasma therapy on his right knee. As if Bryant's Achilles issue wasn't serious enough, Bryant's body seems to be slowly breaking down and that's par for the course for playing 17 years. He has started to jog lightly and take standing set shots, but the Lakers still feel the face of the franchise will miss all of the preseason.
The Lakers' all-time leading scorer was in Dubai promoting health and fitness and he talked about possibly returning Oct. 29 in the season opener versus the Staples Center co-tenants, the Clippers.
"Now it's about cutting the recovery time, I should be OK (for the start of the season)," Bryant told The National, a website in Dubai.
Whether he's promoting good health or sharing basketball pointers, Bryant is competitive in every way. Setting a return date for as early as the season opener only shows he is determined to prove all skeptics wrong and that he still has enough left for another championship run.
Bryant won't have All-Star center Dwight Howard after his soap opera ended with the Houston Rockets. Bryant lobbied for Howard's return and said the reason he wanted the powerful center to return was because of his "talent level" and "defensive prowess."
"We saw what he could do at the end of the year when we all started clicking ... I think that makes him extremely, extremely valuable," Bryant said.
Bryant was right; the Lakers won eight of their last nine games of the regular season and captured the seventh seed in the Western Conference. They were swept by the eventual conference champion San Antonio Spurs in the quarterfinals. Bryant, of course, did not play in the postseason and was asked during media day about Howard's departure.
"Honestly, man, I don't really give a (expletive)," Bryant said. "If he would have come back, it would have been great. If he didn't ... it is what it is."
Before Howard packed his bags for Space City, Bryant remained optimistic about the team and being devoted to proving naysayers wrong.
"I hear the critics (of) the roster, everything is up in the air ... it may seem that way now but the dust will settle," Bryant said in June. "We'll have a team out there on the floor that's going to be a contender."
The Lakers being a contender is still questionable. The timetable for Bryant's return is unknown even though he feels he can make it back by the end of the month. Center Pau Gasol and point guard Steve Nash aren't getting any younger and need to stay healthy to keep D'Antoni's squad competitive. Of course all of the responsibility falls on Bryant, who, at age 35, can still carry a team.