EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Kobe Bryant(notes) doesn't know how much his surgically repaired right knee will allow him to play in the preseason, but he does plan to be on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers' Oct. 26 season opener against the Houston Rockets.
"If it's ready to roll, I will play," Bryant said. "It's tough because I don't like talking timeline or timeframe because people get all antsy. When it's ready, we'll roll. I can't see [missing the season opener]. That's so far down the road. With where I'm at right now, strength-wise, it's very, very good."
Bryant, 32, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee July 23 and was expected to be ready for the start of training camp, which began Saturday night. He was bothered by the injury last season and needed to have the knee drained during the first round of the playoffs.
Bryant said his knee feels a lot stronger now, but it hasn't been truly tested yet. While Bryant didn't have a timetable for his return, Lakers coach Phil Jackson is hopeful Bryant will play some minutes in the preseason.
"I've been shooting. I haven't been doing any extensive running or anything like that," Bryant said. "It's been more about getting the strength up and the stamina in the leg back and running hard consistently for an entire month. I haven't played since Game 7. I've been doing things around [the knee] to strengthen it for when I start playing again.
"You don't want to get into a cycle where you rush out there because everybody is calling you to play. You kind of get into this downhill thing where you play catch-up all the time. Now you're fighting swelling. The swelling's out, you play. You don't want to go back and forth."
Bryant not only played with an injured knee much of last season, but also an arthritic right index finger. The injuries – along with the Boston Celtics' defense – conspired to wear him down during the NBA Finals. In Game 7, he missed 18 of 24 shots.
"At one point during the playoffs, I just said I had to get us to the championship by any means," Bryant said. "Barring future injuries, I felt like that was a year where we could lose this championship because I was playing on one leg. I got to muscle through to get through these two weeks [of the Finals], get this championship and worry about the knee later."