"I didn't expect him to do this much this quick," center Pau Gasol said Wednesday. "I guess I didn't have a chance to see what he's been able to do on his own."
Bryant practiced Wednesday for a second consecutive day but was not expected to play Friday against Golden State, Coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Bryant didn't gradually step up his comeback with games of one-on-one or two-on-two at the Lakers' training facility, standard fare for athletes coming back from long injuries. Instead, he went right to five-on-five scrimmaging, Gasol said.
"That's what's been surprising," Gasol added. "He's hungry to prove himself, to get back on the floor, to play ball and help us be a better team."
Steve Blake has also been impressed by Bryant on the practice court.
"He's playing really well. For a guy who's been out for so long to be making the shots he's making, and playing the defense he does," the guard said. "I know he's been working extremely hard to get back out there for this moment."
Bryant teased his Twitter followers two weeks ago by using the phrase "blackout" in a hashtag, referring to his infamous individual workouts that make him almost pass out. Gasol's theory: Bryant was doing plenty of work on his own, away from the Lakers' facility.
"Otherwise, there's no other explanation for him to be able to go from running on a treadmill and on the floor to actually play five-on-five," Gasol said. "There's certain steps you can't really skip to be able to feel comfortable and effective out there."
Bryant, who was injured in April, is comfortably within the parameters of the Lakers' initial prediction he would be sidelined at least six to nine months.
Turn it up
One thing probably will change when Bryant returns. The Lakers are one of only three teams to not receive an individual technical foul, which does not include defensive three seconds or delay of game.
Basically, nobody on the Lakers (or Atlanta or Denver) is jawing at the refs or protesting calls.
Bryant always pushes the boundaries of the NBA's season limit of 16 technicals per player before a one-game suspension.
And the trash-talking will increase at practices.
"For sure," Gasol said. "That's who he is and he can't wait to bring that back too. He has a lot of energy and I think that's going to be a great injection for us."
Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.