Kobe Bryant is riding a bike. That's about all he can do right now, so he's trying not to think about when he might be able to play for the Los Angeles Lakers again.
Bryant broke a bone in his left knee on December 17 in Memphis while playing his fourth game in five nights, likely sidelining the NBA superstar guard for six weeks. The injury against the Grizzlies occurred in his sixth game back after he missed the start of the season while recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon.
The pair of injuries for the 35-year-old Bryant raised questions about whether he would ever return to his previous form. But he said last night he had no doubt he would play at the top level again.
"There was before I came back the first time because I didn't know how my Achilles was going to respond to playing and changing directions," Bryant said before the Lakers played the Bulls in Chicago. "The game in Memphis I had a pretty good feel for it, getting back to being able to do what I normally could do. I feel confident about it. I did play that second half on a fractured leg and played pretty well. I feel pretty good about my chances."
But the rehab from the knee injury has been slow going so far. The 15-time All-Star said he was limited to mostly bike work right now and any talk of a return was up in the air until he returned to the court.
"Try not to think about it too much," he said. "Just go day to day."
Playing without Bryant and Steve Nash, the Lakers have lost 12 of 15 heading into the game in Chicago. But Los Angeles have won two in a row since a six-game losing streak, with Nick Young and Kendall Marshall helping fuel a mini-recovery.
The Lakers still face a long road back to contention in the loaded Western Conference, especially with their injury issues. Nash is out with a back problem, and the team also is missing guards Jordan Farmar (torn left hamstring), Steve Blake (torn elbow ligament) and Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise).
"It just makes it harder," coach Mike D'Antoni said of playing without two of the team's biggest stars. "You're not quite as good as you were when you had the guy. The biggest thing is how to finish games off because you know where you're going if they're on the floor. You've got to figure that out."
Henry could return soon. He is expected to step up his rehab work when the Lakers practice in Miami.
Even with his limited action, Bryant remains one of the most popular players in the league. He had the most All-Star votes among the Western Conference guards when balloting was announced on January 9.
The fan voting was set to close on Monday night (local time), and the starters for the February 16 game in New Orleans will be announced later this week.
"I've always looked forward to playing in All-Star games. It's always something that's been a huge honor," Bryant said. "With that being said, I haven't played. I think some of the other guys who have been out there performing and playing well and are All-Star worthy should be the ones out there playing."
Bryant isn't taking anything for granted in his 18th NBA season, especially with his injury problems over the last two years. All the time on the sideline also has provided more perspective on how the game has changed since he was a rookie in the 1996-97 season.
"It's much, much less physical," he said. "Some of the flagrant fouls I see called nowadays makes me nauseous. You can't touch a guy without it being a flagrant foul. I think some of that are some of the negatives I've seen change. But there's positives, too."
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