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Sunday, March 28, 2004
Updated: March 29, 8:06 AM ET
Jackson has had five-week absence

ESPN.com news services

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Bobby Jackson expected to play for Sacramento on Sunday after missing the last five weeks, but his strained abdomen muscle kept him sidelined once again in the Kings' 100-92 win over the Wizards.

Jackson, the NBA's top sixth man last season, also expects the Kings to return to the form they showed before he got injured -- and before Chris Webber returned from a knee injury.

That was 3 weeks ago, and marked the beginning of Sacramento worst slump of the year. The Kings struggled while trying to integrate their best player into what had been the NBA's best team.

"We know how good we can be," Jackson said after feeling no discomfort during a lengthy practice Friday. "We're not giving that same effort every night. We're not guarding nobody. That's one through 10. Everybody is killing us. We know what we've got to do. We can't make excuses. We have to come out and play defense."

The Kings (52-21) led the Western Conference by just two games entering Monday -- a tenuous hold on the spot they've occupied since late November. Sacramento is 9-6 since Webber's return, including four losses in the last seven games.

Jackson averaged 13.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game before getting hurt Feb. 20 at Chicago. He has missed 20 games, including Sunday night's win over Washington.

"My stomach is fine, but my feet are barking like I ran a marathon today," Jackson said. "You never know with this injury. There's always going to be a little discomfort. If I need surgery, I can get it after the season, but right now I think I need to be out there."

Jackson's absence has been costly, forcing Mike Bibby to play extra minutes and leaving the team without a true point guard when Bibby rested. The Kings also miss Jackson's spark-plug presence on their defense, which has allowed 103.7 points over the last six games.

The Kings refused to rush Jackson back, because such injuries can linger for months if not properly rested.

Sacramento also has fallen 2 games behind Indiana for the NBA's best record, while the Los Angeles Lakers moved within 2 games of the Pacific Division lead with their 115-91 pounding of the Kings on Wednesday and their 91-84 win over Utah on Sunday.

Six of the Kings' final nine games are on the road, including a brutal trip to face all three playoff-bound Texas teams starting Wednesday at San Antonio.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.