Lakers still cautious on Kobe Bryant

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Just because Kobe Bryant is back on the practice court doesn't mean that the Los Angeles Lakers are any closer to knowing when they will have the superstar guard back for an actual game, coach Mike D'Antoni cautioned Sunday.

"You're dealing with, 'Is he sore today? Is there a setback tomorrow? How [hard] can he go?'" D'Antoni said after shootaround in advance of the Lakers' game against the Detroit Pistons. "That's the first step and there's a lot of steps to be taken. So, I just think we need to be cautious. We best just be cool and chill out a little bit."

Bryant went through shooting drills Sunday, a day after he practiced with his teammates for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon in his left leg nearly seven months ago, but he did not participate in the walk-through portion of the shootaround in preparation for the Pistons.

The Lakers' schedule breaks favorably this week with a rare four-day stretch without a game from Monday through Thursday, but D'Antoni said it would be "premature" to start considering a possible return by Bryant against the Golden State Warriors on Friday.

"We know that he's capable," D'Antoni said. "It's just going to be a process to get him back. He's a presence, no doubt, and we need that presence, especially at the end of games. But again, we got games to win and there's going to be a bunch of them before he comes back, so we're going to have to do our business."

How many games constitutes "a bunch" is anybody's guess. Bryant did not speak to reporters Sunday and declined to comment as he walked out of the Lakers' training facility Saturday, other than to say he felt like "it was time" to test himself in a practice.

D'Antoni said Bryant would likely participate in "certain areas" of practice when the team gets back together after a scheduled off day Monday, but he would not venture a guess as to how many practices Bryant would need before he will be game ready.

"Nobody knows," D'Antoni said. "We don't know."

The coach tried to manage expectations by downplaying Bryant's activity in his first practice back, saying that there was limited contact, players' ankles weren't taped and they were only going at about "60 percent" instead of full speed.

"So, it wasn't a practice per se," D'Antoni said. "But, the first step."

Even with Saturday's training session consisting mainly of five-on-none drills, D'Antoni said that Bryant moved at a "pretty good pace" and was able to drive the lane and jump toward the basket "without anybody on him."

Did he dunk?

"Two 360s," D'Antoni said, sarcastically. "And he threw the ball off the side of the wall and dunked it one time."

Regardless of the fact Bryant is still playing below the rim, the five-time champion doesn't need dunks to punctuate his presence.

"It's going to help," D'Antoni said. "His presence, obviously it changes things up. Again, I think we're a little premature. I know we're all excited, everybody is excited and I'm sure he's excited, but it's a little bit premature right now."

The coach acknowledged the obvious, however, that Bryant cannot get back soon enough as the 4-7 Lakers could use him on the court, particularly in the fourth quarter.

"The focal point will be changed totally and we won't be searching about who we're going to at the end of games," D'Antoni said. "Again, there will be a some struggles early, I mean there's no way that he comes back with everything, but at the same time, his 10 percent is better than most people."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne was used in this report.