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Shaq says he’s ‘sure’ Kobe will return early from Achilles injury, believes he’s targeting opening night

Aug 13, 2013, 6:07 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers' center Shaquille O'Neal (L) la Getty Images

Kobe Bryant has historically shown an unmatched work ethic where basketball is concerned, and there’s no question he’ll continue that level of perseverance as he’s undergoing rehabilitation for the torn Achilles injury he suffered in April near the end of the regular season.

Bryant has already said that he’s shattered the normal timetable for recovery from this type of injury, which would have had him returning to the court sometime near the end of December at the earliest. But one of his former teammates believes Bryant will do everything possible to be back on the floor much sooner than that.

From Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

Shaquille O’Neal expects Kobe Bryant to return from his Achilles’ injury for the Lakers’ season opener on Oct. 29.

“I’m sure Kobe is going to come back early,” said Shaquille O’Neal in a video interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet on Friday.  “Anything before nine months is early.  Him making the first game, I wish him well.  He’s a very, very competitive kid.  He loves the naysayers.  He loves proving people wrong.”When he put the rumor out there that he may be back the first game, best believe he’s trying to come back the first game,” continued O’Neal.

We know Bryant wants to play as early as possible, and Lakers fans want him back on the floor contributing as soon as he’s healthy enough to do so — with the caveat that he’s able to play somewhere close to the level that he could before the injury was sustained.

If Kobe comes back early and is a shell of his former self (yet still dominates the ball offensively and demands the same amount of touches), that’s going to hurt the team a lot more than would his absence for another couple of months.

Bryant will do everything he can to be back as soon as it’s physically possible — that much is certain. He just needs to be honest with himself about his abilities during the recovery process, and make the smart decision as to when the time to return would be best.

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