Bryant gets more in sync with teammates

Updated: October 21, 2003, 10:11 PM ET
Associated Press

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant dribbled, looked to his right, then passed to Gary Payton for a jumper on the left baseline. A few moments later, Bryant fed the ball to Karl Malone in the lane for a layup. Shortly afterward, Payton threw up a lob as Bryant broke for the rim, but he couldn't control the ball and tumbled to the floor.

Bryant smiled a lot, clapped his hands and bantered with his Los Angeles Lakers teammates at practice Tuesday.

The courtroom in Eagle, Colo., seemed far away.

A day earlier, Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett ruled that Bryant must stand trial for alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old resort worker. Bryant, 25, has claimed the two had consensual sex.

At the Lakers' practice facility, Bryant scrimmaged on a team with Shaquille O'Neal and new teammates Malone and Payton, only the second time the four have practiced together during this Lakers' preseason.

Bryant, recovering from offseason knee surgery, is scheduled to play his first exhibition game Thursday night when the Lakers meet the Los Angeles Clippers in Anaheim.

Bryant didn't talk with reporters after the scrimmage.

Coach Phil Jackson said he hopes the attention swirling around the Lakers because of the court case abates.

"We want this thing to go away as quickly as possible and disappear into thin air so we can have an unfettered season," Jackson said.

Forward Rick Fox, sidelined after foot surgery, said he believes the hubbub may quiet down.

"I think it's going to take a back seat to basketball, at least in our arena," he said.

Payton was happy to have both Bryant and O'Neal, who has missed some time with a sore heel, on the court.

"It's good that they're both out there. We need to get a little more in synch, to get the feel for each other," Payton said. "When Kobe gets his legs, it will all come together for him."

Malone said he was "a little giddy" to finally be scrimmaging on the same side as Bryant, O'Neal and Payton.

"Our defense, when we spend some time together, can be very good," Malone said. "The offense is going to be there, but if we can get after guys on defense, that can be as much fun for the fans as the offense."

Fox said that when he found out the four superstars were scrimmaging, he came out of the training room just to see.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "I wanted to see a preview of what it's going to be like."

Forward Horace Grant said that, with those four on the court, he knows he will be relegated to rebounding duty.

"If you're looking for the basketball in this group, you're in trouble," he said, grinning.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press