Kobe Bryant

Stitches removed, out of a cast and with nearly six weeks of rehabilitation under his belt since surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg, Kobe Bryant is still hoping for a return by the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2013-14 season opener.

“I hope so,” Bryant said in a sit-down interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com on Monday. “That’s the challenge. With the tendon, there’s really only but so much you can do. There’s a certain amount of time that they deem necessary for the tendon to heal where you don’t overstretch it and now you never get that spring back.

“So, you just have to be patient, let the tendon heal, and then when that moment comes when they say, ‘OK, we can take off the regulator so to speak and now it’s on you to train as hard as you can to get back to where you want to be,’ that’s going to be a good day.”

Before that day is likely to occur, there will be another date on the calendar that holds particular significance for how Bryant’s Lakers will look next season: July 1, the day Dwight Howard can begin to hear competing offers as a free agent.

While Howard reportedly has strong interest in the Houston Rockets and could be courted by Dallas, Atlanta, Golden State and Cleveland, Bryant is in no rush to be the first to pitch the All-Star center to come back to L.A.

Reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles