Ceballos, Jones Cleared for Return to Lakers


Heading into a critical four-game stretch, the Lakers got encouraging news Monday when recuperating starters Cedric Ceballos and Eddie Jones were cleared to begin full practices.

Ceballos could be activated as soon as Wednesday, and that was an especially welcome development. The Lakers were not expecting to get their leading scorer and All-Star small forward back until the first or second week of April. He has been sidelined 22 games because of a torn ligament in his right thumb.

Ceballos, who last played Feb. 3, will wear a splint on the thumb and might be in uniform when the Lakers play the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at the Forum, a key game in the playoff race.

Jones has been cleared to begin full workouts Saturday and could play Sunday, the start of a crucial home-and-home set with Houston. The rookie shooting guard, sidelined 16 games after spraining his right shoulder Feb. 19, has been practicing lightly since last Monday.

"This is obviously good news because they are both very important to us," Coach Del Harris said. "While it is possible that Cedric will be activated Wednesday and Eddie on Sunday, we need to see how Cedric functions with the splint and how his and Eddie's conditioning and timing are before making this decision. Obviously, we hope to work them both into the lineup with as much speed as benefits them and the team."

The Lakers have gone 13-9 without Ceballos, 15-9 counting his short absence in January because of back spasms. They are 8-8 without Jones.

Three of the next four games will have direct playoff implications--Wednesday's against the Trail Blazers, the team just behind them in the Western Conference standings, and Sunday's and next Tuesday's against the Rockets, the team just ahead of the Lakers. Sandwiched among those is a Friday meeting with the Washington Bullets at the Forum.

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