Lakers unsure when Kobe Bryant will return

LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant was on the sideline taking part in rehabilitation exercises during the first half of the Los Angeles Lakers' opening workout of the season. Not only do the Lakers not know when Bryant will make his season debut, they also can't say for sure when he'll practice.

"If I told you I knew when, I'd be lying because I have no idea," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I don't know. He's up to 80 percent on the anti-gravity stuff. When he gets to 100, you'll have to ask [athletic trainer] Gary [Vitti]. Is that two weeks? Is that three weeks? I don't know. I would say some time in the next three weeks.

"But at the same time, it's kind of conjecture. He can have a little setback or not. There are a lot of things. But he is progressing great and he is doing well. He'll be back sooner than later, but I don't know when that is."

Bryant, 35, ruptured his Achilles tendon on April 12 against the Golden State Warriors and missed the rest of the season. He said on Saturday he is uncertain when he'll make his season debut. To fill in during his absence, the Lakers entered training camp with a long list of shooting guards.

D'Antoni said he is being cautious by planning as if Bryant won't return soon.

"We've got to develop the team and go without him if he isn't here the first game," D'Antoni said. "If he is here the second game then you just plug him in. I still don't know when it is. Since we still don't have a timetable, we can't just wait on him."

The Lakers have added free-agent guards Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry. Young is the most promising scorer of the group. Guard Jodie Meeks, who shot a career-low 38.7 percent last season, also returns. But of all the possible Bryant replacements, Steve Blake is the most likely to be starting at shooting guard when the Lakers open the preseason against the Warriors.

Blake averaged 10 points and 2.2 3-pointers made per game as a starter last season. He usually plays point guard, but started alongside Steve Nash in last season's playoffs.

"You have to prepare as if [Bryant] might not be here at the start," Blake said.

Only six Lakers return from last season, and starters Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace are among the departed. Nash and forward Pau Gasol could see limited minutes in the preseason. The best-case scenario for Bryant is he returns for one of the Lakers' late preseason games.

With all the injuries and new faces, chemistry will be an issue for the Lakers – with or without Bryant.

"It might be a little bit of a challenge," Gasol said. "Me and Steve are going to be out there, hopefully, most of the time. … Kobe is going to come in when he comes in."