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Pro Basketball | LAKER REPORT

Shaq Appears on Course After Light Drills

January 02, 2002|Tim Brown

Shaquille O'Neal dressed in purple shorts and gold jersey for the Lakers' sweat-it-all-out practice in El Segundo on Tuesday afternoon, and actually participated in some light, walk-through exercises.

While most of his afternoon was spent in a chair not far from Kobe Bryant, watching practice, O'Neal appeared to maintain his course to play Friday night against the Phoenix Suns.

It will be O'Neal's decision, according to Coach Phil Jackson, just as it was O'Neal's choice to rest his aching feet and then to go to the injured list for at least five games, the NBA-mandated minimum.

Jackson said O'Neal would test his feet--to review, that's a sore small left toe and an arthritic big right toe--in a rigorous practice on Thursday, although Jackson recently said a lighter practice schedule probably would be best for O'Neal.

O'Neal left without commenting, and Jackson said he did not ask him if his toes were any less painful. There is a possibility that O'Neal would have to play with the pain, even if it limits his game.

In that respect, Jackson tried to cheer up O'Neal with a reminder that he could be Arvydas Sabonis, or had to be Arvydas Sabonis, or once guarded Arvydas Sabonis, or something. The point was somewhat murky.

"We'll have to play within what the limitations are," Jackson said. "I brought up to him a point that Sabonis was one of the best centers in the world at one time. He had to play with a limited amount of action, but he was still a very effective center. He wasn't Sabonis of the 1980s, but he was the Sabonis of 1998-99, and he was still a very good player. So, you know, you have to learn to play within those limitations. I don't think that's going to happen to Shaq, but still there's a way to play with it."

*

Bryant experienced some swelling in his right side on Monday and did not practice Tuesday.

He received therapy to his strained ribs starting an hour before practice and said he would play tonight against the Denver Nuggets with a pad over the area.

Still, Bryant stayed involved with the scrimmage.

"I was talking a lot of trash from the sidelines," he said, laughing. "I was hyping everybody up."

Despite his injury, Bryant has played at least 40 minutes in three of the four games O'Neal has missed, and the schedule gets more difficult from here.

"It's a very challenging stretch for us," he said. "We know that, but we're looking forward to it. We're actually excited to get out on the road to play."

TONIGHT

vs. Denver

6 p.m., Channel 9

Site--Pepsi Center

Radio--KLAC-AM (570)

Records--Lakers 21-6, Nuggets 10-19.

Record vs. Nuggets--2-0.

Update--The Lakers beat the Nuggets twice during their season-opening run of 16 wins in 17 games. A lot has changed in the Nugget organization since, not much of it good. Nick Van Exel wants out. Dan Issel is out. And now comes speculation that Clyde Drexler will push interim coach Mike Evans out. Denver General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe added Drexler to Evans' staff on Monday. John MacLeod, a head coach in New York, Dallas and Phoenix, has been moved from his consultant job to Evans' bench, as well. Some believe the next Nugget coach will be Larry Brown, an old friend and mentor of Vandeweghe's. The basketball hasn't been any better. The Nuggets have lost five of six.

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