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NBA PLAYOFFS: HOUSTON VS. LAKERS / SERIES REPORT /
LAKER NOTES

Injury Situation Up in Air

April 23, 2004|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

Slava Medvedenko has not run or practiced since Monday, when he strained his right Achilles' tendon against the Houston Rockets, and the Lakers remain unsure about his return.

The power forward is questionable for tonight's Game 3 in Houston, but on Thursday afternoon he was atop an elliptical exercise machine, which allowed him to maintain cardiovascular fitness without stressing his tendon.

When asked about playing tonight, he shrugged, said he was better and added, "Maybe. I'll see."

*

A four-game sweep of the Rockets not only would allow the Lakers time to prepare for the next round and what would be a difficult series against, probably, the San Antonio Spurs, but it would allow Kobe Bryant to tend to his legal matters without too many basketball complications.

The judge in Bryant's sexual assault case has scheduled pretrial hearings for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Eagle, Colo.

If the series extended beyond Sunday's Game 4, Bryant would be expected to miss practices Monday and Tuesday. He then would try to rush back to Los Angeles for Wednesday night's Game 5.

"We realize all the issues going into it," forward Karl Malone said. "I'll say it again, I repeat, we support Kobe, we're going to have to do whatever we can for him. He's done a lot for us, winning ballgames. If something happens that he's not able to do it for us for a game, we'll just have to do it ourselves."

*

No matter Medvedenko's availability and Shaquille O'Neal's foul situation, Malone will spend plenty of minutes behind Yao Ming, giving away better than a half-foot, but having an advantage of nearly two decades' experience.

Derek Fisher credited Malone's defensive work against Yao as the difference in Game 2, including one possession in which Yao leaned, Malone stepped aside and Yao fell over backward.

"I try to meet him at the three-point line and make him work to get the post he wants," Malone said. "Just don't let him walk down there, because 80% of playing him is making him work.

"If he gets you down in the post, he's 7-6. All he has to do is turn."

*

Horace Grant said Thursday he would have hip surgery sometime during the second round of the playoffs, assuming the Lakers get that far.

He has asked Dr. James Andrews, a noted Birmingham, Ala., surgeon, to recommend a surgeon on the West Coast.

Grant has a torn labrum in his right hip and therefore was left off the playoff roster.

*

Former Laker Norm Nixon will appear today with the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the Team L.A. Store at the Universal City Walk from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Nixon will sign autographs.

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