Jackson to have surgery; Kobe, others recovering
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers open training camp Tuesday, and the timing could be better.
First, three players including defending NBA scoring champion Kobe Bryant are recuperating from operations. And coach Phil Jackson is scheduled to undergo surgery to replace his right hip Tuesday instead of being on the sidelines when camp begins.
Nobody expressed much concern Monday at media day, although the 61-year-old Jackson, as might be expected, admitted to being nervous.
"Of course, anybody would be," he told reporters. "I do know a number of success stories."
Included was his mother.
"I felt in the best interests of our team, it would be better to do it sooner rather than later," Jackson said, explaining that the pain in his hip had increased in recent weeks and mobility became a problem.
"There's no single incident outside of my kids and Jeanie insisting I have it now instead of later," he added, referring to longtime girlfriend Jeanie Buss, a team executive and the daughter of owner Jerry Buss.
Dr. Lawrence Dorr of the Arthritis Institute in Inglewood will perform the surgery at the Centinela Hospital Medical Center. Jackson is expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday, and hopes to be on the bench Oct. 31 when the Lakers open the season against Phoenix.
"Dr. Dorr said I'll be walking with pride on opening night," Jackson said, adding he actually hopes to be attending practices long before that.
Jackson said he planned practices for the first week with assistant Kurt Rambis, who will run the team along with fellow assistants Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw.
"They're not going to goof off," Jackson said of his players. "We've got too many guys who have been head coaches on the staff who will shape things up if things get strung out."
Bryant, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee July 13, will be around, but won't be going full speed for a while.
"The knee's doing pretty good. It's getting stronger day-by-day," he said. "It's right on schedule. I'll go through some of the dummy offense. I just started running today, a little lightly. It feels really strong right now; I don't want to set it back."
Asked if he'll be ready for the season-opener, Bryant replied: "I should be, hopefully."
Bryant said Jackson will be missed, but he expressed confidence in the rest of the staff.
Bryant and Jackson had some well-publicized differences in Jackson's first five years as coach of the Lakers, but after taking a year off, the two appeared to get along very well last season.
"He and I have become extremely close," Bryant said. "He's really my mentor. I've learned everything, basically, from him."
Bryant, about to start his 11th NBA season despite being only 28, wore jersey No. 8 in his first 10 years. He's switched to No. 24.
"It's a little weird -- it's a trip," he said with a smile, peering down at the jersey.
"You see Kobe wearing 24? That's crazy to me," second-year center Andrew Bynum said.
"It's finally feeling like an ankle again," he said. "I just got cleared for running and jogging. I tore it pretty good."
Mihm thought he sprained his ankle in mid-March, but played in only one game after that and finally discovered he tore three ligaments.
"I tore it up pretty good. I did a number on it," he said. "I knew it was bad. I've sprained my ankles hundreds of times, but it just wasn't getting better."
Mihm said he hopes to be ready for the season-opener.
"That's my focus, that's my plan," he said.
Rambis said practice will be filmed for Jackson to watch if he so chooses.
"I don't thing it's going to be difficult," Rambis said. "Kobe being out is going to have an impact. Chris being out is going to have an impact. We're all on the same page. As a coaching staff, we're all very confident we'll be able to accomplish our goals."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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