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Thursday, October 23, 2003
Bryant will start against Clippers

Associated Press

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is looking forward to his first game since being ordered to stand trial for sexual assault and undergoing knee surgery.

"It's my eighth year in the league -- too many years in the league to be nervous," Bryant, 25, said after practice Wednesday.

Coach Phil Jackson will start Bryant in the preaseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Anaheim tonight and play him in "eight- to nine-minute bursts."

"There's a natural timeout in the first quarter, and I'll take him out of the game and see how he does in the second session in the first half and go from there," Jackson said.

It will also be the first time Bryant will play with Karl Malone and Gary Payton, free agents who signed with the Lakers during the summer. With center Shaquille O'Neal, it gives the Lakers four potential Hall of Famers.

"They need to play together," Jackson said.

Bryant said his goal for the game is "to build the rhythm as a unit."

He said he agreed with teammate Derek Fisher's assessment that he was at 75 percent of his best level. Bryant said his trainer told him he would not be 100 percent until December.

On Monday, Bryant was ordered to stand trial for sexual assault. A 19-year-old Eagle, Colo., hotel employee alleges he sexually assaulted her in his room on July 1. Bryant, who was in Colorado for knee surgery, says they had consensual sex.

Bryant, free on $25,000 bond, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000. His next court appearance is Nov. 10.