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Shaq to Have Surgery Today


Shaquille O'Neal will have surgery today, nearly three months since the last game of the Laker three-peat, three weeks before the start of training camp.

Delayed by conflicting medical opinions and the hesitation they inflicted, O'Neal will have 47 days to recover if he is to be healthy for the regular season, his 10th in the NBA and seventh with the Lakers.

Dr. Robert Mohr, chief of podiatric surgery at UCLA Medical Center, will attempt to relieve the pain in O'Neal's arthritic right big toe with a short, early-morning procedure called a "cheilectomy," in which the bone around the joint is carved away.

"Obviously, we're anxious about [today's surgery]," Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Tuesday. "We're confident with the doctor and the procedure. It was unfortunate he got ill a month ago, but we're comfortable with the prognosis."

The recovery, Kupchak said he was told, "could be anywhere from six to eight to 10 weeks, a normal recovery without complications. But we'll know more [today]."

As a precaution, the Lakers have invited veteran centers Ike Austin and Duane Causwell to a two-day tryout camp beginning today in El Segundo.

"We can't anticipate Shaquille participating in training camp," Kupchak said.

Guards Jeff Trepagnier (USC) and Mitchell Butler (UCLA) also will compete for the next two days for a chance to come to training camp, with about a dozen others.


While Kobe Bryant mulls a fourth consecutive championship and a new shoe--Nike and Reebok have made the hardest pushes for what should be a massive endorsement deal since Bryant dropped Adidas earlier this summer--the Lakers' standing offer of a three-year contract extension remains untouched.

Bryant has neither declined nor accepted an offer of three years for nearly $55 million--the maximum allowed by the collective bargaining agreement--that would kick in after the 2004-05 season.

The complication: Bryant can opt out of his contract in two years, or after the 2003-04 season, which is when the CBA expires. Bryant may choose to examine the terms of the next labor deal before agreeing to terms under the current one.

NBA owners, however, have the option to extend the agreement through the 2004-05 season, at which point Bryant could wait the additional year and decide then.

Or, Bryant, who turned 24 on Aug. 23 and who even in his darkest moments in Los Angeles never talked about leaving the Lakers, could take the deal.


Tracy Murray, acquired in the draft-day deal with the Toronto Raptors, is recovering well from April hip surgery. He has worked out at the Laker training facility, and the club expects him to be healthy for training camp, which begins Oct. 1.... Bryant, Murray, Derek Fisher, Mark Madsen, Kareem Rush and Rick Fox, among others, already are on the floor in El Segundo.... Coach Phil Jackson drove in from Montana late last week.

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