Brand believes the 34-year-old Bryant will regain his Hall of Fame form after going through the grueling rehabilitation process that will follow Saturday’s surgery to repair his torn left Achilles tendon.
“Everybody knows his work ethic,” Brand told ESPNDallas.com before the Mavericks’ Sunday game against the New Orleans Hornets. “I think he’ll be fine. I know they said there’s no way to come back to 100 percent from it, but if there’s anybody that could come close, he can.”
Brand knows firsthand that Bryant will be in good hands during his rehab. Brand credits Judy Seto, a physical therapist who now works for the Los Angeles Lakers, for helping him come back strong eight months after he tore his Achilles during a workout in August 2007.
Brand regrets not continuing to work with Seto the following summer, when he returned to his East Coast home instead of staying in Los Angeles after averaging 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds for the Clippers in eight late games that season, giving him confidence that he had successfully completed his comeback. In hindsight, Brand wishes he also would have worked that summer with Tim Grover, a renowned personal trainer whose NBA clients include Bryant.
Working out on his own, Brand regressed, losing some of the strength and explosiveness in his left leg that he had worked so hard to regain. After scoring at least 20 points per game in the four seasons before his injury, Brand never averaged more than 15.0 points per game in a full season. He remained a productive player, but his rebounding and shot-blocking numbers also dipped significantly.
“I don’t think it had to, but it did because I lost the explosiveness,” said Brand, whose left calf is still noticeably smaller than his right. “I wasn’t the most explosive guy, but I lost some explosion, especially jumping off my left leg.
“But like I said, I don’t think he has to worry about that because of the people he’s working with. I think they’re going to have all the machines and all the technological advances to know how to get it solid. When I left, I was more on my own and didn’t have their expertise to fall back on.”
The word Brand uses most to describe the rehab process from a torn Achilles tendon is “tedious.” He describes it as a grind with a lot of two-a-day sessions, a lot of stretching, a lot of working to build back up muscles in the lower leg and a lot of pain.
Brand firmly believes that Bryant, one of the most ruthless competitors in NBA history, will be up to the challenge.
“Just be himself and attack it like he attacks life and sports,” Brand said. “He doesn’t need any advice. He’s driven from within. He’ll be fine.”