Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is "a few weeks away" from the full-weight bearing running step of his Achilles rehab, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Medina spoke with Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti on Thursday. Vitti said there have been no setbacks, but Bryant's return date is still up in the air:
"He's doing well and has had no setbacks," Vitti said Thursday at his trainer's office at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo in a wide-ranging interview with this newspaper. "He'll be ready when he's ready. Nobody has a crystal ball on this thing."
Bryant's current rehab step involves running at 75 percent of his body weight on a treadmill. The next step involves full-weight bearing running, with on-court basketball activities following after that. Vitti gave no exact timetable for how long each step will take, but he won't rule Bryant out of the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 29.
In addition to rehabbing Bryant's Achilles, Vitti and the rest of the Lakers' training staff have also made sure to focus on building strength in other key areas:
"He doesn't have injuries in the rest of his body," Vitti said of Bryant. "When a guy has been out for a long time, that neuromuscular system shuts down and the nerves don't fire the muscles in the right pattern in the right way. We have to get this whole thing working again. Think of him as a Ferrari. He's a machine. If those pistons aren't firing in the right position and in the right pattern, the timing is off. Other structures can be taking loads that aren't built for that. The rehab is not directly solely to the Achilles tendon."
Bryant has consistently said that he's ahead of schedule in his rehab and there has been little evidence to suggest otherwise. Even if Bryant doesn't return in time for the opener, it likely won't be much longer before he's back on the court.