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Kobe Bryant closer to return

Kobe-Bryant-20-11-13Kobe Bryant is always causing a stir in basketball, and it doesn’t matter if he’s playing the game or not.

At the Beijing Olympics, where the Los Angeles Lakers star helped the United States capture a gold medal, he was among the most celebrated of athletes for Chinese fans.

There were roars of appreciation when he showed up at the Wukesong Arena to watch games not involving his team.

In the NBA, Bryant is a five-time champion.

He will go down as one of the greatest players in league history once he decides to stop playing.

Retirement is the last thing the 35-year-old hoops icon is thinking about right now.

Instead, Bryant is working hard to getting back to live basketball action.

He ruptured his Achilles tendon in April and hasn’t played in a game since, but now Bryant is getting closer to a return.

It could happen this month.

When asked on Tuesday if it was possible he might return to the line-up for one of the team’s remaining five games in November, the superstar answered: “Yeah, yeah I can.

Coach Mike D’Antoni admits that Bryant is starting to look like his old self in practice.

“He hasn’t played since April but he looks pretty good,” D’Antoni said.

“I don’t know why that surprises me, but it does. He was up and down pretty good. A little rusty here and there, but good.”

Once Bryant does get back on the floor, he will have a modified approach.

“There’s certain things that I used to do that I can’t do now,” Bryant said.

“I won’t try to do them. You’ve got to figure out other ways.

“I just got to go with the flow and just react. If you have limitations, you have to be honest with yourself and self-assess.

“If you have those limitations, you have to figure out a way to be effective around those. You can’t be stubborn about it.”

Once Bryant does begin playing again, he will draw double-teams, just as teammate Pau Gasol does, and that will open up opportunities for others.

It’s only going to help the Lakers as they try to bounce back from a slow start that has seen them win just five of their first 12 games.

The team desperately needs its biggest star back on the floor, along with veteran point guard Steve Nash.

The 39-year-old Canadian has been bothered by back, hamstring and nerve irritation the past couple of seasons and has been out of action since 11 November.

Bryant and Nash have tried to draw strength from each other’s company, even if they haven’t been the influential players the Lakers need in games.

“Steve and I have been extremely close through this process,” Bryant said.

“That’s part of our job as teammates is to pick each other up and put them in position where he can still be extremely efficient and extremely successful.”

Next up for the Lakers is a game on Friday against Golden State.

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