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Typical schedule would start trial in March

EAGLE, Colo. -- If Kobe Bryant is treated like any other defendant, as the Eagle County prosecutor has maintained he will be, then Bryant's basketball schedule could be impacted considerably.

Bryant is scheduled to return to Eagle for his preliminary hearing on Oct. 9, and legal experts told the Washington Post that Colorado felony cases generally come to trial five to six months after that hearing, the paper reported in Wednesday's editions.

If that schedule holds, Bryant could find himself in court, rather than on the court, as the NBA regular season winds down. The Lakers' regular season finale is April 14, and the trial could impact the Lakers' playoff hopes.

By state law, the trial must start within six months, unless the defendant agrees to further delays. Even if the trial is postponed until after the NBA season, however, Bryant could suffer some basketball ramifications.

The Lakers, one of the preseason favorites to win the 2003-04 NBA title, could be playing well into June if they advance deep into the playoffs. The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, for which Bryant currently is a member of the U.S. basketball team, begin August 13. Bryant's participation in the Games clearly could be compromised by a trial that began after the NBA season

"Trials get delayed for a lot of reasons," said Craig Silverman, a defense attorney and former prosecutor in Denver, to the Post. "But it's hard to imagine a way this trial could be delayed beyond the season, beyond the playoffs, and beyond the Olympics."

Bryant's next step is mandatory attendance at the preliminary hearing, which comes in the middle of the Lakers' preseason schedule and could force him to miss some action.

After the preliminary hearing will come Bryant's arraignment, which must occur by Nov. 8, and for which Bryant must be present. At that session, Bryant will enter his formal plea and the judge will set a trial date. The Lakers have five games in the first week of November.