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Shaq Cleared to Return From Injury

Shaquille O’Neal returned to practice Tuesday and was cleared to rejoin the Laker lineup tonight at Minnesota without any time constraints other than his own conditioning.

The sprained ligament in his right knee, an injury he described at the time as very minor, ended up costing O’Neal eight days, although only two games, since it coincided with the All-Star break.

O’Neal ran on a treadmill Monday and the injury responded well to that, so team physician Steve Lombardo OK’d O’Neal’s return.

O’Neal should be back in the opening lineup against the Timberwolves, moving Elden Campbell back to power forward and Travis Knight to the bench after the first two starts of his pro career. How long O’Neal plays will probably depend more on stamina than his right leg.

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The Lakers will play again Thursday night at Denver but then are off until a Sunday afternoon game against the SuperSonics at the Forum.

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The Denver Nuggets are believed to want to talk with General Manager Mitch Kupchak to succeed Bernie Bickerstaff as head of basketball operations, but as of late Tuesday afternoon had yet to ask the Lakers for permission.

Kupchak will not say if the interest is mutual.

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