Shaq Thinks Kobe Will Be Back by Season Opener

Shaquille O'Neal said he expects an early return for former teammate Kobe Bryant from his Achilles injury.

"Kobe's going to try to come back early," O'Neal said in an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet on Friday. "Anything before nine months is early. Him making the first game, I wish him well."

Bryant tore the tendon on April 12 and the initial recovery period of six-to-nine months left the distinct possibility that he wouldn't suit up for a game again in 2013. But his mind has been locked in on the early portion of that time table, as he told's Dave McMenamin in June that he hoped to return to the floor in time for the 2013-14 season opener.

O'Neal told SportsNet that a speedy recovery for Bryant wouldn't surprise him at all:

He's a very, very competitive kid. He loves the naysayers, he loves proving people wrong. When he put the rumor out there he may be back the first game, best believe he's trying to come back the first game.

If anyone can speak on Bryant's competitive spirit, it's O'Neal. The pair teamed up together for eight seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and led the franchise to three straight world titles from 2000-02.

Though their two egos eventually proved too great for one locker room to hold—O'Neal was dealt to the Miami Heat in 2004—they've since reconciled their differences.

That's why comments like these from O'Neal are now possible and should have some merit, too.

The clock is ticking for Bryant to hasten his rehab and be back in time for the season opener. The Lakers kick off the 2013-14 campaign with a home game against the in-house rival Los Angeles Clippers on October 29.

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