Kobe Bryant could return to action Friday for Lakers

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The Lakers have a bit of a layoff after hosting Portland on Sunday, with no games at all on the schedule before next Friday’s contest in Sacramento against the Kings.

Kobe Bryant has been slowly working his way back from the torn Achilles injury that prematurely ended his season back in April, and the extended practice time available in the upcoming week could be a prime opportunity for Bryant to get acclimated enough to return to the floor in a game that counts for the first time in several months.

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles:

Kobe Bryant has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, but the Los Angeles Lakers acknowledged he could return Friday in Sacramento if he feels ready after a week of practices. …

“I don’t want to anticipate anything,” D’Antoni said after practice Saturday. “Those are days that he can work and see, re-evaluate how he feels after the three days and then make a decision going forward.

“That doesn’t mean he will play Friday, doesn’t mean he won’t. But that’s the time you just evaluate, and I can’t tell you what type of evaluation that will be.”

L.A. held a practice on Saturday after returning from a road trip late Friday night in a move believed to be geared toward Bryant getting some additional time to practice with teammates.

It’ll be extremely interesting to see what version of Bryant the Lakers get when he does return, whether it is later this week or at some point beyond that in the very near future. L.A. has managed to compile a winning record through 17 games in Bryant’s absence, and Mike D’Antoni has praised the Lakers’ teamwork and chemistry throughout the early part of this season.

Even if Bryant were to immediately return to the player he was last season prior to the injury, there’s the delicate balance of the style his team has been playing this year to consider. Bryant’s traditionally ball-dominant ways won’t fit well with the roster as currently constructed, so a somewhat fascinating adjustment period is likely to take place beginning with the moment he steps onto the floor with his team for the first time in almost eight months.