Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has vowed to return to full fitness as he steps up his return from injury, joking that he needs to "get my fat a** in shape".
35-year-old Bryant, who has been with the franchise since they famously traded for his draft rights in 1996, suffered a particularly nasty achilles injury that forced him to undergo surgery in April.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist now faces a race to prove his fitness prior to the start of the 2013/14 campaign, which begins at Staples Center against local rivals LA Clippers on October 29.
Ahead of any possible return, versatile shooting guard Bryant, who is also a two-time NBA Finals MVP, admitted that he needs to increase his conditioning work.
"I’ve got to get my fat ass in shape. Six months of eating whatever the hell I wanted to eat and not running, stuff like that. I’ve got to get in shape," Bryant was quoted by Sports Illustrated.
While he asserted his desire to return to optimum physical condition, the 15-time All-Star would not be drawn on an exact return date.
"I’m just keeping it all open right now. I don’t know why you guys are so hellbent on timelines. It’s like the most ridiculous thing to me, it’s entertaining. When I’m ready, I’m ready," he added.
The Lakers, who endured a season of considerable struggle last year as a succession of injuries led them to only just make the playoffs, got their preseason campaign off to a satisfying start on Wednesday evening with a tense 90-88 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Mike D'Antoni's charges return to action on Thursday evening against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas.