Kobe Bryant hopes to face Raptors

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant continues to hone in his aim toward a return date after spending nearly eight months sidelined following Achilles surgery.

The Los Angeles Lakers' home game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday is his latest target.

"I'm trying," Bryant said after practice Thursday when asked specifically about the Toronto game. "We got to see how it feels tonight. I'm going to try to get another hard session in and then [Friday] morning try to push it again and the same thing tomorrow evening. Continue to just keep on measuring it."

Bryant plans to stay back in Los Angeles when the Lakers visit the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

"I'm not going up to lovely Sacramento," said Bryant, surely with the memory of the food poisoning incident at a hotel there during the playoffs nearly a decade ago much more fresh on his mind than that cheeseburger was.

Bryant wouldn't definitively say Sunday would be the day, but if not, Tuesday's home game against the Phoenix Suns seems to be his next most likely comeback date.

"I think days," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said when asked to estimate how far away Bryant is from getting back on the court for a game.

Bryant said he was "pleased" with how he feels after three straight days of practice, but still has some lingering issues to overcome associated with the Achilles.

"The [left] ankle joint, that's the thing that's been restricted for so long," Bryant said. "You're talking about months of immobility, so you got to work through that a little bit. There's still some scar tissue in there that needs to be broken up. That's done through movement and therapy and mobilizations."

Bryant, 35, also is still waiting on the return of the explosiveness to his game that allowed him to throw down so many turn-back-the-clock dunks last season, inspiring his self-proclaimed "Vino" nickname.

"I'm not jumping through the gym by any means, but I don't need to be able to do that in order to be a great player," Bryant said.

The 18-year veteran said that he would "probably" have a reduced amount of playing time when he does return to game action. He averaged 38.6 minutes per game last season.

"Getting your sea legs, it takes some time to do that," Bryant said. "That's why we have preseason games and it builds to the regular season. It just takes awhile, no matter how much running and conditioning you do, to get out there and play is different. So, I'm sure I'll be limited in some capacity."

While Lakers fans and NBA fans alike have been anticipating Bryant's debut ever since the 2013-14 schedule was released this summer, Bryant acknowledged the possibility of having to go in and out of the lineup as he makes his final push toward a full recovery.

"The perfect-case scenario is that we get it right the first time," Bryant said. "But if it's not, then you have to be smart about it as well and take a step back and build up the strength and say, 'Hey, listen, it's not as good as we thought it was going to be, so let's take a step back and get it to where we want it to be and try again.'"

One thing you won't see D'Antoni trying again too much is playing Bryant with the second unit, as the coach did during Thursday's practice just to give the starters extra time together with Bryant already ruled out Friday.

"He practiced on the second team," D'Antoni said. "So, he was fodder today. Don't tell him I said that. Attribute that to Steve Blake or somebody, would you?"

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