Kobe Bryant is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn achilles tendon and could return to play in pre-season, according to LA Lakers vice-president Jim Buss.
Bryant suffered the tear in April last season as the Lakers were pushing to seal a playoff spot.
He'd been expected to miss a significant chunk of next season with the injury, but Buss claims he could make his comeback in pre-season.
Speaking to NBA TV on Thursday, Buss said: "Well, we're in Vegas, and I would bet a lot of money that this guy comes back probably in preseason.
"He's real sharp in taking care of himself and he's not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point.
"He's going to come back when he's right. He's a machine. He's inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can't believe how much he's progressed so far."
Bryant said earlier this month that he was ahead of schedule and was planning to step up his recovery heading into training camp, which starts in October for the Lakers.
The five-time NBA champion was given a six-to-nine month rehabilitation timeline after suffering the injury back in April.
Only the best possible scenario - a six-month recovery - would see Bryant return in time for training camp.
The Lakers legend will return to a very different team to the one he left last season. All-Star centre Dwight Howard has departed for the Houston Rockets while Metta World Peace has joined the New York Knicks.