LONDON (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant will play for a few minutes in the Los Angeles Lakers’ two European pre-season games as he rests his knee following offseason surgery, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said on Saturday.
Bryant’s 2010 NBA champion Lakers will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in a sold-out game on Monday night at London’s O2 Arena, then play FC Barcelona in the Spanish city on October 7.
“He’s not going to play a whole lot,” Jackson told Reuters.
“His playing time will be limited, maybe 6-7 minutes in his first run, then we’ll see if he can play another set.”
Bryant had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in July, a month after winning his fifth NBA championship and helping the franchise clinch its 16th title.
The guard, twice an NBA Finals’ MVP, said he felt no pain during a practice in south London earlier on Saturday.
“I‘m not ready yet, but I‘m getting there. Today felt a lot better,” he said.
Jackson added: “(Bryant) practiced today for the second time... He’s not doing anything too explosive but he looked good and shot the ball well.”
Both teams arrived in London on Friday.
“The trip was long... we had a 23-hour day yesterday,” said Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis.
Transatlantic trips could become a more familiar trek for teams in the future as the NBA trials playing regular season games in Europe this season.
The Toronto Raptors face the New Jersey Nets in two matches at London’s O2 in March as part of a push to promote basketball in the British capital before it hosts the 2012 Olympics.
“I‘m still uncertain there will ever be regular season games throughout the whole 82-game NBA schedule in Europe or around the world as it’s hard travel-wise,” Rambis added.
“(The March games) will be a nice occasion, but I wish they’d send some of our West coast opponents to play over here rather than East coast teams,” Lakers’ Jackson joked.
Minnesota also plays the New York Knicks in Paris on October 6, as part of the NBA’s four-game Europe Live tour.
The Knicks will take on Armani Jeans Milan on October 3.
Editing by Ken Ferris