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Time for Some Comebacks

Times Staff Writer

The line outside the Laker training room is getting considerably shorter, with three injured players expected back by next week, if not sooner.

Health is one thing, but assimilation into the Laker lineup is another category.

Spots in the rotation will have to be earned, jobs will have to be reclaimed as Vlade Divac, Slava Medvedenko and Jumaine Jones filter their way back into the lineup.

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“It’s encouraging, but I still have no idea how it’s going to work out,” Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. “You only have so many spots on the team. You can cut the pizza so thin. We’ll see.”

Medvedenko, who played in the exhibition opener before sustaining a bruised heel, suited up for the first time this season Wednesday against the Clippers, but he didn’t play.

“We do have a lot of big guys and we’re trying to establish a rotation and he’s another guy in the mix,” Tomjanovich said. “Then when Vlade comes in, that’s another thing. It’s going to be interesting.”

Divac, who had his first practice Monday since sustaining a herniated disk in his back before training camp, could be ready next week for his first game of the season, Tomjanovich said.

Jones sustained a strained right calf Nov. 9, but he has been running on a treadmill and is eligible to come off the injured list for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

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The Lakers and KCAL, Channel 9, announced Wednesday that they have reached a seven-year agreement that extends their relationship through the 2011-2012 season. The current contract expires at the end of this season.

The new deal continues one of the nation’s longest-running partnerships between a professional sports team and a local television station. KCAL has been televising the Lakers since 1976, and the 2011-2012 season will mark the 35th anniversary of their relationship.

FSN West and the Lakers agreed on a similar extension in May.

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The Clippers will have some integrating of their own to do.

Projected starters Kerry Kittles and Chris Kaman resumed practicing this week and are expected to play before the end of the month, though Kaman said that “it’s not looking good for Saturday,” when he had hoped to return.

The second-year center has targeted a Thanksgiving return against the New Jersey Nets. Kittles, a seven-year starter for the Nets before his July trade to the Clippers, earlier told teammates he hoped to play before Thanksgiving.

“It’s going to be an interesting balancing act,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said of adding two more players to his rotation. “But I just think the guys are too good [for it to be a problem]. I mean, good guys as well as good players. I think they’re all about us winning.

“I think they know they’ll be coming back into it a little bit slower. And then, ultimately, when everybody gets up to speed, it will depend on who’s playing [well]. The reality is that we should just be kind of a deep team.”

Kaman said his sprained left ankle was “not coming around like I want it to ... it’s taken longer than I anticipated.”

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Times staff writers Larry Stewart and Jerry Crowe contributed to this report.


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