Lakers trainer Gary Vitti: Kobe Bryant progresses, return unclear

Lakers trainer Gary Vitti checks on a winded Kobe Bryant in a game in March.
Lakers trainer Gary Vitti checks on a winded Kobe Bryant in a game in March.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Kobe Bryant is progressing from his Achilles’ tendon surgery on April 13, but Lakers trainer Gary Vitti still doesn’t have a specific return date for the All-Star guard.

“We don’t know yet. Kobe looks exactly the way he’s supposed to look at this point in time,” said Vitti in an enlightening interview with Mike Trudell at

“Kobe makes you look good as a training staff,” said Vitti, who has been with the Lakers since 1984. “We always feel good about how he’s going to recover from anything, and that’s a credit to him.”


Bryant was injured on April 12 in a victory over the Golden State Warriors.

“I knew right away that was torn,” said Vitti. “I felt a hole in my gut.”

Bryant recently shed a walking boot and crutches.

With an alarmingly high number of injuries, the 2012-13 season for the Lakers was one of the toughest Vitti has experienced with the franchise.

“It wasn’t a tough year, it was a tough 10 years in one,” said Vitti.

In addition to Dwight Howard recovering from back surgery and playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder, a litany of injuries led to a short playoff run.

Steve Nash’s broken leg, sustained in the second game of the season, was an oddity to Vitti.

“It was the most fluke lower extremity fracture that I have ever come across,” said Vitti. “Then all the things that went along with it -- nerve entrapment and so on -- with Steve’s preexisting issues forced us to shut him down.”

Nash had hip, hamstring and back issues late in the season that saw him sit most of the first-round playoff series swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

“When he eventually came back [in late December], he had a collectively damaged kinetic chain, in which case a lot of compensation takes place,” Vitti said. “When there is compensation, there’s dysfunction, and we could never get ahead of the curve because we had to play games.”

The Lakers also saw Steve Blake go down with an abdominal tear and hamstring strain, Jordan Hill sit out for most of the season with an injured hip that required surgery, Metta World Peace miss games because of an injured knee and Antawn Jamison sit with a wrist problem. Jodie Meeks suffered a high-ankle sprain in the postseason.

Pau Gasol had knee and foot issues throughout the year as well.

“Pau’s [knee] tendinitis eventually became tendinosis, which is basically a diseased tendon and it’s very common in the NBA,” said Vitti.

“He’s coming along really, really well,” Vitti said, noting that Gasol had an off-season knee procedure. “We also expect his plantar fascia to completely heal by next season. There’s a small gap right now, but it’s filling in nicely.”

Vitti praised Gasol’s ability to play through pain this season.

“It’s a testament to the toughness of Pau,” he said. “He’s always shown a level of toughness to play injured. A lot of times, Pau has been playing through tendinitis throughout different times in his career and he deserves some credit for that.”

Of course, Bryant’s injury was the most devastating, even though he managed to limp to the line to knock down a pair of vital free throws that helped the Lakers clinch victory over the Warriors and help secure a playoff berth.


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