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.

"For me, you kind of let him do his due diligence and then move in and talk to him and figure out if this is a place he wants to be," Bryant said. "We all want him here. But then that's when the selling begins [after Howard is courted by other teams]. You don't start the selling process right before he goes and does all this stuff. You want to get the last word. You want to have the final word and the closing argument.

"I'll give him a little opening statement, but then I have to make sure I have the final word."

If Howard ends up being a one-year rental rather than the face of the franchise moving forward, Bryant is confident the Lakers, with 16 championships to their credit, will still find a way to thrive.

"This franchise is a franchise that you really don't have to worry about too much, because no matter what happens, whether it's a year from now, two years from now, whatever the case may be, they're always going to find a way to have an impact on this league," Bryant said.

Should the Lakers resort to a Plan B if Howard walks, Bryant said he will make his voice part of the process.