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

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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.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.