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Team unsure of Bryant's training camp plans

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers are considering
changing the way they deal with the media this season because of
the circuslike atmosphere the Kobe Bryant case figures to create.

Team spokesman John Black said Thursday the team might make
adjustments, including the possibility of traveling with two public
relations representatives on road trips rather than one.

The Lakers don't have many answers concerning Bryant's plans for
training camp, and even those who can talk about Bryant were
keeping quiet or not saying much in the aftermath of the
24-year-old star's brief appearance in an Eagle, Colo., courtroom
on Wednesday.

Training camp begins Sept. 30 in Honolulu.

Veterans, including Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and newcomers Karl
Malone and Gary Payton, are scheduled to report Oct. 2.

The first full practice will be held the following day, and the
Lakers face Golden State in exhibition games Oct. 7-8 before
returning to Los Angeles the same day -- Oct. 9 -- that Bryant has
his preliminary hearing on a sexual assault charge.

Black said following Bryant's hearing Wednesday it was too early
to know how training camp will be affected.

"We'll sit down with Kobe at some point when it makes sense to
do that and discuss his plans with him at that time," Black said.

A call Thursday to Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, was referred to
the Colorado office of attorneys Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon,
where a spokeswoman said no interviews were being granted.

The coverage might be unprecedented, but the Lakers have dealt
with media mobs before. The franchise was in the spotlight during
the Showtime era of the 1980s and engaged in memorable clashes in
the NBA Finals with Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit.

There also was Magic Johnson's retirement in 1991 when he
announced he was HIV positive, and his ensuing comebacks.

Phil Jackson was hired as coach in June 1999 and the Lakers won
three straight championships from 2000-2002 despite a Bryant-O'Neal
feud midway through the 2000-01 season that fueled scrutiny of the
team.

Now there's the Bryant case.

Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, said he believes Bryant's
situation will probably draw the Lakers closer.

Training camp figured to draw considerable attention -- even
before Bryant was arrested -- due to the additions of Malone and
Payton. With Malone, Payton, Bryant and O'Neal, the Lakers were
considered favorites to make it four championships in five years.

"When a family has a member wounded, they all kind of rally
around," Manley said. "They'll probably be very protective of him
and his privacy. In the case of him being the young guy of the four
superstars on the team, it kind of should work pretty well to have
those three guys as your protective family members.

"I know speaking for Karl, he looks at Kobe being a teammate as
the same thing as being one of his own family members or one of his
own children."

At age 40, Malone is just about old enough to be Bryant's
father.