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Saturday, October 6, 2012
Kobe Bryant practices for Lakers

By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant returned to practice Saturday after sitting out both of Friday's sessions with minor discomfort in his right foot and will play in the Lakers' preseason opener Sunday night against the Golden State Warriors at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

Dwight Howard also was a full participant in Saturday's practice, but Lakers coach Mike Brown said he didn't think Howard would play in Sunday's exhibition as he continues to recover from back surgery.

In a mild surprise, Brown said he'd start one of the Lakers' rookie centers -- Greg Somogyi or Robert Sacre -- instead of forward Jordan Hill, in Howard's place.

"If -- and you never say never -- but if Dwight Howard doesn't play tomorrow, I'll start either Sacre or Somogyi," Brown said. "I might grab a coin and flip it. I might give heads to Sacre and tails to Somogyi.

"I just want to start a true center with the group so I can watch Pau at the power forward spot. I just want to see Pau starting at his position that he'll start at, and I want to see Jordan Hill playing with the other guys coming off the bench, and Jordan playing the power forward."

Sacre, a 7-foot center out of Gonzaga, was the Lakers' second-round draft pick this year. Somogyi, a 7-3 center out of UC Santa Barbara, was signed as an undrafted free agent this summer. Both are considered long shots to make the team.

"It's the first preseason game. I think guys would be OK if I started (assistant coach) Darvin Ham," Brown said jokingly. "I'm looking at different combinations, to see how guys are going to play in their normal spots."

Every indication is that Howard will indeed sit out this preseason opener. Brown said he would be "surprised" if Howard played. But of course everyone was surprised when Howard participated in the Lakers' first practice Tuesday.

"He looks good to me. We haven't taken him out of many things. He's going full bore most of the time," Brown said of Howard.

"But I don't think so," Brown added, referring to the chance of Howard playing Sunday. "He's got to talk his way into it with (Lakers trainer) Gary Vitti first. I have not control over what Gary and the training staff do. Whatever they want to do."