HONOLULU — Nine months have passed since his last NBA game, but Kobe Bryant is now ready to go and says he will “definitely” play in the Lakers’ preseason opener on Sunday.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the 37-year-old will take the floor against Utah at the University of Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center, giving fans their first look at him since tearing his right rotator cuff on Jan. 21.
“Come all the way out here, people want to come to the game,” Bryant said. “You (can’t) sit down on the bench. That’s not cool.”
Bryant has been shuffling on and off the court this training camp, as the team attempts to limit his workload, especially before the regular season begins. The 17-time all-star was held out of Friday’s practice and certain drills to rest, and says that he is looking to reestablish in-game rhythm.
“I haven’t played in so long, so it’s just timing,” Bryant said. “Defensive timing, offensive timing — that stuff you can’t get back in training. You’ve just to play.”
Bryant says that he doesn’t have any physical concerns but is looking to get his “sea legs” back. Fortunately for Bryant, those legs haven’t been a huge issue for him, unlike when injuries to his Achilles tendon and knee ended his 2013 and ’14 seasons, respectively.
“I’m thinking about how he looked last year in training camp and preseason compared to how he looks now — he just looks much more lively,” Scott said. “And I think that has to do with the fact that the injury wasn’t below his waist. So he was able to run and do all those things that he wasn’t able to do last year. So from that standpoint, he just looks so much stronger.”
The Lakers will be without Marcelo Huertas on Sunday due to a right hamstring strain. Meanwhile, Larry Nance, Jr.’s status is questionable because of back spasms. However, Scott called both players’ injuries “minor.”
Marcelo Huertas won’t play tomorrow due to the hamstring, but he says it’s not serious. Hasn’t been ruled out for Tuesday’s game.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 3, 2015
On the flip side, Nick Young (back spasms) and Metta World Peace (calf) returned to the practice floor. Young was hurt at the end of the prior day’s scrimmage, while World Peace had sat out both Thursday and Friday.“You could tell (World Peace) was out there defensively,” Scott said. “He stripped a couple of guys. He’s just got great hands and an uncanny ability of knowing where that ball’s going. So for his first scrimmage, I thought he looked pretty good.”
Finally, D’Angelo Russell practiced fully after sitting out most of Thursday due to a bone bruise in his right foot. He said after that day’s session that head athletic trainer Gary Vitti had him feeling much better and ready to play.
“The little pain he had in it the other day he says is pretty much gone,” Scott said. “He felt good enough to go, and I thought once he got warmed up and loose he looked like his old self.”
Lineup Still Undecided
Scott says that he has yet to determine a starting lineup for Sunday. However, he did say that starters will play no more than 20 minutes, and those that come off the bench will have more time than that.
As for his team’s first exhibition, he is keeping his eye on a simple factor.
“I just want them to compete,” Scott said. “That’s the biggest thing. Every game we want to compete and just give ourselves an opportunity to win.”