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Kobe Bryant practices with Lakers, says: ‘If there was a playoff game tonight, I’d play’

Nov 16, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT

Yao Ming & Kobe Bryant Attend NBA Fans Appreciation Day Getty Images

Kobe Bryant has yet to take the floor for the Lakers this season, after suffering a torn Achilles injury back in April that required surgery and the requisite amount of extensive rehab that traditionally follows.

But he is back on the practice court, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

After seven months of rehabilitating a torn Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant finally returned to practice with theLos Angeles Lakers on Saturday, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Bryant has made remarkable progress from such serious injury, but it’s unclear how long it will take for him to return to play his first game this season. All along, Bryant had hoped he could play his first game within two to three weeks of his return to practice. Still, his debut will depend on how he progresses in full-contact workouts with his team.

Without him L.A. is off to a predictably slow start, sitting at just 4-7 through the team’s first 11 games.

Kobe is not giving a timetable for his return. However, speaking in an interview with NBA TV on Friday, Bryant says if these were playoff games, he would be back on the court trying to help his team.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

“I feel like I’m ahead of schedule,” Bryant told former teammate Rick Fox in an interview for NBA TV on Friday. “If there was a playoff game tonight, I’d play. I’d play. I don’t know how effective I’d be, but I would play.

“The fadeaway still works, the ballhandling, being able to post. Those are things that I can do right now. But it’s not the playoffs, thank god.”

Bryant has been back on the practice court going through shooting drills during the past week, according to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. The attempts have been more of the game-ready, jump-shot variety than the modified set shooting that Bryant was already able to do during training camp.

What Bryant appears to be saying here is that he could help in a limited capacity if it was absolutely necessary. But that doesn’t mean you can expect to see him back on the floor before he’s as close to 100 percent physically as possible.

Bryant continues to say all the right things about his rehabilitation. He has no target date set, because given his personality, that would drive him to meet that goal at any cost, even if it wasn’t the best thing for his long-term health.

As soon as he’s able to, Bryant will make his return. The question remains whether or not his presence will help push this Lakers team to a winning record, and maybe even a chance to compete in the playoffs.

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