LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant was off crutches Friday for the first time since spraining his right ankle, but remained uncertain when he will be able to play for the Lakers again.
Los Angeles Lakers
2004-2005 SEASON STATISTICS GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT% 34 27.5 6.3 6.6 .406 .799
Asked if he might be ready to go when Los Angeles hosts San Antonio on Feb. 3, Bryant replied, "That will be a fun one. Hopefully, I'll have a couple of games under my belt."
Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich noted Bryant's arrival.
"I saw him sliding in here. It wasn't an even gait, but he was without crutches, so that's progress," Tomjanovich said.
Bryant hurt his ankle in the first quarter of the Lakers' win over Cleveland on Jan. 13, and initially was expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks.
A couple of hours before Los Angeles' game against Golden State on Friday night, Bryant was on the court, shooting some baskets from the bench and even taking -- and making a few -- left-handed shots from halfcourt while holding his injured right foot off the floor.
"I can put pressure on it, but can't push off on it yet," Bryant said. "But I'm getting there. It felt great. You know how much I love the game, so it felt good just to be out there.
"When I first came back in locker room when I hurt it, I couldn't even take the shoe off. It was that bad. Now I'm at the point where it can bear weight, so we're turning the corner pretty well."
His teammates, who defeated Golden State 105-101 on Friday night, are 3-1 since he went down. Bryant didn't seem surprised they've picked up the slack.
"I said from the beginning that I had no doubt that we'd step up to the plate. The attitude, the atmosphere around here, it's confidence, that swagger that we have," he said before the game. "When we compete in practice, I'm running my mouth all the time talking trash, challenging players.
"What happens when you're constantly on the edge, challenging, when a challenge is presented, it's second nature. You just step up to the plate."
He sees his absence as a growing experience for his teammates.
"When I'm in there, they defer to me so much, to the point where they don't feel comfortable," Bryant said. "So when I get back, they'll have the confidence they can make those big shots, not like they'll have to come to me every time."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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