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Bryant Planning to Play Tuesday

Pro Basketball | LAKER REPORT

December 24, 2001|Mark Heisler

For those of you who have been dozing too, the Lakers' cakewalk seems to be over.

After losing at Memphis, they fell out of first place in the West for a day, as the San Antonio Spurs moved a half-game ahead of them, before losing Sunday. The Lakers not only have competition, they have injuries, like Kobe Bryant's pulled muscle in his rib cage and Shaquille O'Neal's sore right big toe, that caused both to sit out Sunday's practice.

Bryant says he expects to play on Christmas Day against the Philadelphia 76ers. O'Neal is also listed as day-to-day but hasn't missed any games, although he has had the same trouble all season, along with pain on the left little toe he had operated on in summer.

"It's the big toe, it's not the little toe," said Coach Phil Jackson of O'Neal. "But he has never complained about it in any of the practices that we had [last week].

"You could obviously see [at Houston and Memphis], he was not moving well and could not give us a full effort, the kind of effort we need.

"He is now decidedly--upset isn't the right word--but decidedly bothered by the state of his ability to play, that he can't do the things that he wants to do on the court."

Said Bryant of O'Neal: "We talked today and he's hurting pretty bad. I think he's going to go get it checked, kind of take it from there."

Bryant says his own injury is "not that bad," and that he'll play on Christmas. "Without a doubt," he said. "I'm playing all 82 this year."

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The Spurs started the season 2-2 but are 18-3 since. The Lakers started 16-1 but are 3-3 since.

"I've always been realistic that we haven't been on the road, and we're not road-toughened," said Jackson.

"I think San Antonio's played great. They're more dedicated right now to what they're doing than we've been.... They started a little slower than we did, but now they've got 10 in a row [before Sunday] and that's what it's about, getting streaks and making them continue and that's what we haven't been able to do in this month."

By Jan. 1, the Lakers will have been at home for 17 of their 27 games.

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