From NBA.com staff reports
Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti has been at his job since the 1984-85 season, making him maybe the best L.A. source at judging how an injured player is progressing in his rehabilitation. Vitti has been keeping a careful eye on Kobe Bryant as the All-Star shooting guard rehabs following surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon he suffered on April 12 vs. Golden State.
Bryant has been active on various forms of social media since the injury, updating fans on his Facebook, Twitter and Vine accounts. In August, he went as far as to say he had ‘shattered’ the recovery timetable.
While Bryant is progressing well, Vitti is tempering the expectations of both Bryant and his legion of fans as training camp nears.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Daily News‘ Mark Medina, Vitti said the Lakers are continuing a conservative approach in getting Bryant up to speed. The longtime trainer also said that Bryant is already running on a treadmill, though with a contraption that helps support him, and he will be up to running with his full body weight soon:
Kobe Bryant continued rehabbing on his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon, the latest involving running at 75 percent of his body weight on a treadmill. Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti expects Bryant remains a “few weeks away” before advancing to full-weight bearing running, though he added “there’s no projected date” on whether Bryant could play in the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers.
It all fits the Lakers’ conservative approach in ensuring Bryant doesn’t return from an injury he suffered April 12 before it fully heals.
“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 must first complete full-weight bearing running drills before advancing to on-court basketball activities. Vitti offered no timetable on how long it would take for Bryant to complete each stage, let alone whether he will appear in the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers.
It’s unlikely that Bryant will be available for the start of the Lakers’ training camp on Sept. 28, but his availability for the end of the team’s preseason schedule may still be up for grabs. No matter how Bryant progresses, the Lakers’ training staff has been impressed with his work thus far:
The Lakers training staff, led by Vitti, physical therapist Judy Seto and strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, has concentrated on ensuring Bryant’s tendon heals while also building strength in his legs, knee, back and core.
“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.”
“He’s had a good surgery, good rehab and he’s motivated about it. He’s smart,” Vitti said of Bryant. “You can’t get ahead of the game on this thing, but you can get behind. He never got behind.”