Kobe feeling like a gazelle? It took long, yet it was worth the recovery.

L.A. Times: Kobe Bryant said he would play Tuesday against Memphis, 18 days after his last game with the Lakers, bolstered by a four-day weekend and a Monday morning practice that didn’t produce any pain in his left ankle.

“I feel good, like a gazelle,” he said. “As always, the ultimate test is to see how it develops and how it holds up to stress and the pressure of traveling and playing in back-to-backs.”

The Lakers play an increasingly intriguing game Wednesday in Dallas, a day after Bryant’s expected return against the Grizzlies. He acknowledged that the ankle didn’t feel entirely healed but said it was close enough.

“Where I’m at now, I feel confident about playing and, while I play, getting to 100%,” he said. “It’s about 80-85 right now. The rest of the percentage is made up just from strength.”

Bryant is averaging 28 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists, but the Lakers went 4-1 in a series of well-balanced efforts without him. They are half a game behind Cleveland (43-14) for the NBA’s best record.

“It’ll be a little bit of an adjustment for us, but we’re all excited to have him back,” forward Pau Gasol said. “He looked good. With this little break that we just had after the Boston game, everybody’s energized and ready to go. I think it’s going to translate to the games.

“We have to make sure we continue to move the ball. I think that’s a big part of our success.”

Bryant’s return would come against the same Grizzlies team he lit up for 44 points on 16-for-28 shooting this month, but the Lakers lost, 95-93, when Ron Artest missed a three-point attempt as time expired.

After that game, during which Bryant broke Jerry West’s career franchise scoring record, Gasol said the Lakers were “not making a conscious effort on pounding the ball inside.”

Gasol had only 10 points on four-for-seven shooting that night and said Monday that returning to Memphis, the franchise that dealt him to the Lakers two years ago and employs his younger brother,Marc, at center, always represented a personally charged night.

“There’s a lot going on emotionally,” he said. “I want to play well, especially in that game. Last time I was a little bit upset because I wasn’t able to do that.”

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