It was strange, a media circus more suitable for a playoff series in May, but this was November and the Lakers were pursuing only a .500 record.
Kobe Bryant practiced again, though, the second time in four days, and didn't flinch afterward when asked if he could envision returning to game action this month.
"Yeah, I can," Bryant said Tuesday, 221 days after sustaining a torn Achilles' tendon.
He took part in a full-court scrimmage that was closed to reporters and then a half-court, five-on-five that was open to the media.
Bryant looked active, making fadeaways over Nick Young and Xavier Henry near the top of the key, scoring on a backdoor layup and finding Wesley Johnson for a layup. He jumped but didn't dunk during the open portion of practice.
"I'm just trying to do what I normally do, figure some things out about my game — what can I do at this stage, what I can't do at this stage," he said.
He compared taking the court Tuesday to the excitement he felt before his first start as a rookie in the 1996-97 season. He also swiped again at a preseason ESPN story that ranked him as the NBA's 25th-best player this season.
But there was some rust Tuesday from Bryant, most notably when he airballed an open three-point attempt. Some of his passes were deflected or stolen.
It's not unexpected. He hadn't played since April 12. And he's 35, coming off a serious injury.
"You can't be stubborn about it. If there's certain things that I used to do that I can't do now, I won't try to do them," he said. "You've got to figure out another way."
Bryant mainly played small forward with a starting lineup of Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake.
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said Bryant would not play Friday against Golden State. There are four other games this month: Sunday at home against Sacramento and a three-game trip next week to Washington, Brooklyn and Detroit.
Bryant often joked during his time off about a lack of conditioning, openly talking about slippage in his diet, but said he was fine after Tuesday's practice. "I've been doing a great deal of conditioning, so I didn't feel tired," he said. "My legs didn't feel tired at all."
He also said he added strength with his off-court workouts. "I'm able to hold defenders off pretty easily with my off hand and maintain position in the post and things like that. I'm much, much stronger now than I was," Bryant said.
Bryant said his ankle tendon felt better after giving him some problems when he started running last month.
The question now is how he feels going forward and whether he can continue practicing at full speed. Bryant was observed in practice by team doctor Steve Lombardo and trainer Gary Vitti.
D'Antoni said he was surprised by Bryant's activity level but continued to preach caution about his return.
"This was one good step, but he needs a few more steps," D'Antoni said. "He hasn't played since April and he looked pretty good. I don't know why it surprised me, but it does."
The Lakers are 5-7 and drifting toward the bottom of the Western Conference without Bryant, who averaged 27.3 points and six assists last season.
"I think we've been competing very hard. There's a couple games there where I felt like we could have won," Bryant said. "There was just a one- or two-minute stretch where we made a couple errors and a team was able to get away from us a little bit. All in all, I think we've competed very well."
Bryant upbeat about Nash
Steve Nash is entering his second week of sitting out because of persistent nerve pain in his back, though Bryant talked optimistically about his eventual return, almost as if they were both back on the court together.
"That's part of our job as teammates, is to pick each other up and put him in positions where he can still be extremely efficient and still be successful," Bryant said.
Nash, 39, worked out with his personal trainer at the Lakers' facility Tuesday. The Lakers are expected to provide an update on his condition later this week.