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Rush Traded, Odom Hobbled

Times Staff Writer

The Lakers walked off the practice court Monday, threadbare and transitioning, with Kareem Rush gone, Tony Bobbitt arriving to replace him, two of their top scorers nursing injuries, their coach taking a trip to see a doctor, and Kobe Bryant later opining that Karl Malone might be done, perhaps finding retirement more acceptable than imagined.

A seamless start to the week it was not, with the Pacific Division-leading Phoenix Suns playing here Wednesday and the Lakers now down to only five players left from last season.

One of the new additions, forward Lamar Odom, took a few trips up and down the court and sat out the rest of practice because of swelling in his left knee, joining Bryant, who also sat out to rest his improving left foot.

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Meanwhile, Coach Rudy Tomjanovich was at the doctor’s office for a scheduled procedure as part of his continued recovery from bladder cancer, and Rush was officially traded to the Charlotte Bobcats for two second-round picks, his place taken by Bobbitt, an undrafted shooting guard out of the University of Cincinnati who was the last Laker cut in the exhibition season.

Adding to an already overcrowded afternoon, Bryant went on the “Loose Cannons” show on XTRA Sports 690/1150 AM and said it was “just intuition” that Malone would retire. Malone, 41, had knee surgery in June and has not decided whether he will return for a 20th NBA season.

“I don’t think he’s coming back,” said Bryant, who was then asked whether he had planned on Malone’s return from a strategic perspective.

“Yeah, naw,” Bryant said. “Plus it’s not really fair to hold it over the guys’ heads that are here. Like, the guys that we have here are working hard, practicing hard every day. It’s kind of tough for them to be looking over their shoulder, wondering if he’s going to come back and then everybody is going to disappear.

“They are here giving me 110%. It’s really not fair for us to sit around and speculate how long this is going to go on. I mean, you can’t sit up here and speculate for the remainder of the season whether or not he is going to come back. I mean, that’s not fair to the guys that are working here.”

Bryant and Malone live about six blocks apart in Newport Beach, but Malone’s agent said his client “has not shared any of his personal thoughts with Kobe.”

“Karl will decide his future on his own, and Kobe doesn’t have any special insight at this time,” Dwight Manley said.

The Lakers have saved a salary slot for Malone if he wants play for them, a decision expected to come next month.

There were other concerns and activities, beginning with Odom’s knee. He predicted he would be OK -- “minor, nothing major,” he said -- as he sat propped up on a trainer’s table with ice wrapped around his knee.

“I’ve never had a problem there before,” said Odom. “Any time you’ve got swelling, you’ve got to take care of it.”

Later Monday night, Rush did not play for Charlotte against the Clippers at Staples Center.

He was traded for a conditional second-round pick in the 2005 draft and the Bobcats’ second-round pick in 2008.

For the 2005 draft, the Lakers will receive either the second-round pick of the New York Knicks or the Houston Rockets, whichever is higher. Charlotte had acquired both picks in previous trades.

“What Kareem needs is a place where he can go and play and hopefully play injury-free and get the minutes that he needs to develop confidence to play in this league at this level,” Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.


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