LA Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni admits he is excited by the prospect of Kobe Bryant returning to action for the franchise, but has urged caution as the NBA superstar steps up his recovery.
Bryant has not played since rupturing his Achilles tendon against Golden State in April but increased his activity at the weekend by taking part in some practice drills and trying out some light shooting exercises.
The 35-year-old did some jumping but is not yet dunking, says D'Antoni, but the Lakers chief has warned fans not to get too carried away as Bryant edges ever closer to a return to the court.
"I know we're all excited, everybody's excited, and I'm sure he's excited, but [it's] a little bit premature right now," D'Antoni told reporters.
"You're dealing with, ‘Is he sore today? Is there a setback tomorrow?' That's the first step and there's a lot of steps to be taken, so I just think we need to be cautious. We just better be cool and chill out a little bit."
The Lakers have a record of 5-7 without their star man so far this season, and will undoubtedly benefit greatly when Bryant makes his long-awaited return to the team.
Closing out matches has a been a particular problem in the absence of Bryant and, although D'Antoni can't wait to welcome is most reliable player back into the fold, he says others must step up in the mean time.
"He's a presence, no doubt, and we need that presence, especially at the end of games,” D'Antoni added.
"But we've got games to win and there's going to be a bunch of them before he comes back. So we're going to have to do our business."