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Feeling Fine, O’Neal May Start vs. Bucks

Times Staff Writer

Shaquille O’Neal didn’t have much to say as he left practice Saturday. Nor were any words necessary.

His big smile said it.

His bouncy step said it.

The lighthearted mood of his teammates said it.

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But the most telling sign of all came from Laker Coach Phil Jackson, who said that his center was doing so well the day after his first game of the season that Jackson was strongly considering starting O’Neal tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.

After sitting out the first dozen games of the year following off-season toe surgery, O’Neal entered Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls midway through the first quarter. In all, he played 21 minutes, scoring 17 points along with seven rebounds.

Although the rust was evident and his leaping ability limited, O’Neal reported afterward that his toe felt good.

“The true test,” he said Friday night, “will be in the morning.”

And what did he say Saturday morning?

“I can’t say anything is different than I said it was 11 hours ago,” O’Neal told reporters.

Not totally true.

“He had some stiffness in his legs,” Jackson said. “But that’s natural. He was playing hard.”

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Even if O’Neal starts tonight, Jackson said, he won’t play more than 30 minutes.

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Forward Mark Madsen, who has yet to play this season because of a strained hamstring, may finally make it onto the court during the Lakers’ three-game trip this week.

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The Lakers will honor broadcaster Chick Hearn, who died at 85 in August, by unveiling a jersey bearing his name tonight as part of a pregame tribute. Former Laker player and executive Jerry West and Hearn’s widow, Marge, will speak before Hearn’s jersey takes its place alongside those of the team’s retired superstars. All fans in attendance will receive a commemorative pin and a media guide containing a special photo section on Hearn.

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TONIGHT

vs. Milwaukee, 6:30

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Fox Sports Net

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- KLAC (570).

Records -- Lakers 4-9, Bucks 6-5.

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Record vs. Bucks (2001-02) -- 2-0.

Update -- Talk about bad timing. This isn’t the homecoming Milwaukee rookie center Dan Gadzuric, a former Bruin, had hoped for. Saturday, UCLA’s football team got pummeled by USC. Tonight, Gadzuric may well get pummeled by O’Neal.


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