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Shaq says Lakers additions create his 'Dream Team'

LOS ANGELES -- Shaquille O'Neal hopes the sexual assault
case against Kobe Bryant doesn't drag on.

"It's an unfortunate situation. Kobe's a teammate of mine and a
friend of mine," said O'Neal, who previously had been quiet during
an extremely eventful summer for the Lakers.

"I'm very confident in the judicial system, so hopefully this
will be resolved quickly. And hopefully it will be pain-free on
both sides."

He added, "I've been instructed not to say anything about it."

Bryant is accused of sexual assault at a Colorado resort hotel
on June 30.

Bryant, who turned 25 on Saturday, is free on $25,000 bond. He
is scheduled to return to Eagle, Colo., for an Oct. 9 preliminary
hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trial.

The Lakers' guard has claimed his 19-year-old accuser had
consensual sex with him.

During a break Saturday at a kids basketball camp where he was
gleefully working with youngsters, O'Neal did talk enthusiastically
about the Lakers' signing of Karl Malone and Gary Payton.

"I'm very happy, because for the first time in my career, I
finally have the dream team I've always wanted, the dream team that
I've always been after. A hard-nosed point guard, a legendary power
forward. That's all I ever wanted," he said.

"As long as we keep the ball moving, we're going to be a
legendary hard-to-stop team. We have four future hall of famers."

After the team's string of three consecutive NBA titles ended
with a Western Conference semifinals loss to eventual champion San
Antonio last May, O'Neal said that he and Bryant needed a stronger
supporting cast.

So the Lakers lured two of the best players in the game. Malone
and Payton took big pay cuts to join the suddenly stacked Lakers.
Neither of the two have an NBA championship ring.

"I think this will be the first time in my career when I don't
have to score 30 points every night," O'Neal said. "After all the
years of, `Shaq, you've got to score 30 points for us to even be in
the game,' now we've got a lot of legends on our team.

"Karl Malone said it best: 'Pick your poison on any given
night."'

O'Neal, looking relaxed and joking with the kids, said he feels
more ready to go back to work this season than in the past.

"This is actually the first summer in a long time when I've had
time to rest and recuperate. The other years, it would get down to
the nitty-gritty (in the playoffs) and I would have to take a month
off just to get my body right," he said.

"By then it's already August, and you have to come back in
September and I've never really had time to get back in shape. Then
there was the surgery."

He had toe surgery last Sept. 11 and wasn't as dominant when he
finally began playing again 13 games into the season.

O'Neal said his feet, which have bothered him for several years,
are "OK."

"I'm not pain-free, but I still can do what I do. And now I
won't have to do it all. Anyway, everyone knows that after a loss,
the beast is coming back," he said with a grin.

O'Neal, very active with kids in his reading and sports
programs, seemed completely at home with the youngsters, ranging in
age from 12 to 18 and coming from all over the country, at the
"Nestle Crunch Hot Shots" camp at an upscale athletic club in
West Los Angeles.

"I'm not a role model, I'm a real model," he said. "I don't
do stuff for the cameras. A lot of the stuff I do, the media
doesn't know about. These kids have people they want to be like,
and they sit in their little hometowns and dream about things.

"If I can make somebody's dream come true, I'm all for it. I
want to be one of the athletes that can help shape the direction of
some of these young people."