<
>

Bryant sore, but likely to play

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Shaquille O'Neal likely won't play Wednesday night against Seattle, making it 13 games he will have missed since straining his right calf Jan. 2.

"I wish we could tell you when Shaq will play," Lakers coach
Phil Jackson said after practice Monday. "We're hopeful he can
practice tomorrow. He was out on the court today. He's anxious to
practice. We're just hoping he can practice."

Wearing a rubber sleeve on his right calf, O'Neal did a little
shooting before joining his teammates running baseline to baseline
at the conclusion of practice.

He didn't last long in that regard.

"Nothing can replicate when he gets on the court," Jackson
said. "That's why we're trying to be cautious. We know that a
practice can tell us something at that level."

Lakers spokesman John Black said O'Neal will be re-examined by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo as early as Tuesday.

Black said it was "highly unlikely" O'Neal would play against
Seattle and wouldn't speculate concerning Friday night's game
against Minnesota -- the Lakers' last home game until Feb. 17.

Kobe Bryant also sat out practice Monday, but Black said Bryant was listed as probable for Wednesday night's game at Staples
Center.

Bryant returned Saturday night in Utah after missing six games
because of a sprained right shoulder. He had 21 points and six
assists in 38 minutes to help the Lakers beat the Jazz 93-86 to
snap a nine-game road losing streak.

"Kobe said he still had some pain and discomfort in his
shoulder," Jackson said. "He's going to have that discomfort in
his shoulder for some time."

Neither O'Neal nor Bryant spoke with reporters.

Karl Malone remains sidelined indefinitely with a sprained
ligament in his right knee.

An MRI taken Monday on Jamal Sampson's right ankle revealed nothing more serious than a sprain. Black said Sampson probably won't play until next Sunday at the earliest, when the Lakers begin a seven-game road trip in Toronto.

Rick Fox was activated Saturday, but didn't leave the bench.
There's a good chance he'll play against the Sonics in what would
be his first game in nine months.

A starting forward, Fox tore a tendon in his left foot April 27
in Game 4 of the Lakers' first-round playoff series against
Minnesota.

"Wednesday's a possibility," Jackson said. "There are some
matchups I'm thinking about."

Fox called the game in Utah a dress rehearsal because he was in uniform for the first time since being injured and undergoing
surgery.

"I'm taking this a step at a time, as cautiously and wisely as
possible," he said. "I'm trusting coach Jackson. We stay in
touch, do a good job of communicating openly. Today I was telling
Phil it felt so much better. It's feeling great, actually. I do
expect to play Wednesday."