Bryant Makes the Flight

Kobe Bryant, who sat out two games and two practice days because of a viral infection, had improved enough Wednesday morning to board the Lakers' charter flight.

Bryant told a Laker official he felt "much better," after several days of abdominal cramps, chills and general malaise.

Bryant is expected to attend this morning's shoot-around at the Palace of Auburn Hills and is probable for tonight's game against the Detroit Pistons. His participation probably will be a game-time decision for Coach Phil Jackson.

The Lakers embarked Wednesday on a trip that would be difficult under the best of circumstances. They'll play five games in seven days, including two back-to-backs. Guard Isaiah "J.R." Rider, who might have most benefited from Bryant's absence, is not due back from his five-game suspension until Friday at Washington.

"It's going to be difficult for us if we don't have Kobe," Jackson said.


Maybe a tumultuous season has calmed for the Lakers. Without Bryant, without Rider, and with Tyronn Lue on a sprained ankle, Derek Fisher popped in and saved a game the Lakers otherwise might have lost.

Beyond his 26 points, six steals and eight assists Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics, Fisher pumped his fists and shouted support at teammates, who pumped their fists and shouted back. The Lakers had life again, even if they didn't necessarily have defense.

From here, Jackson would not predict what Fisher might bring nightly.

"We're just happy with what we got [Tuesday] night," he said. "We're not going to expect anything but what he got. We've got a game on Thursday night, a tough game for us, a game we don't know if Kobe will be playing or not, and we're just hoping we get the performance from guys who have to step up. We can't, at this point, expect anything from anybody but Shaq [O'Neal]. Shaq's the one we consistently have to get the ball to and have games like he has."


Ron Harper said he did not expect to come off the injured list during the trip. He has a bruised knee. . . . Assistant coach Jim Cleamons' wife, Cheryl, bore the couple's second child, a daughter named Rose, on Monday. . . . In his last six games, O'Neal is 41 for 62 from the free-throw line.


at Detroit, 4:30 PST, Channel 9 (5:30)

* Site--Palace of Auburn Hills.

* Radio--KLAC (570).

* Records--Lakers 42-21, Pistons 24-40.

* Record vs. Pistons--1-0.

* Update--Jerry Stackhouse, averaging 29.4 points a game, scored 30 points against the Lakers on Dec. 10. The Lakers won, 112-88, because Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal each scored 26. Stackhouse's 5.2 assists per game lead all off-guards. He has scored at least 40 points six times. Only Allen Iverson, who has done it 14 times, and Bryant, six times, have been as prolific. Corliss Williamson has averaged 16.5 points since being traded from Toronto to Detroit. The Lakers have won five in a row in the series and seven in a row at the Palace.

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