Medvedenko to Have Back Surgery

Times Staff Writer

The Laker roster, already threadbare and fraying, will take another hit because Slava Medvedenko is probably lost for the season.

Sidelined since mid-November, the reserve forward will have surgery to repair a herniated disk, a procedure that typically requires a three-month recovery period.

The surgery is expected to be performed next week by William Dillin of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

Medvedenko, 26, hurt his back when pivoting during drills before an early-season game against Minnesota. Surgery became the only option after his back did not respond well enough to therapy over the last two months.

Medvedenko never got on track this season. His only headline-grabbing activity was when he passed out in an elevator at the team hotel in Philadelphia in November after eating only a candy bar for breakfast.

Medvedenko, in the final year of a two-year contract extension that pays him $3 million this season, had two points and an assist in two games.

"We may have to get more help," Coach Phil Jackson said. "That makes a void in that position."

A leading candidate would be second-round draft pick Ronny Turiaf, averaging 9.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in five games for the CBA's Yakama (Wash.) Sun Kings. Turiaf has recovered from open-heart surgery in July and is working on conditioning.

Medvedenko, in his sixth season, has career averages of 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds.

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Kobe Bryant, done serving a two-game suspension for a flagrant foul, tried to watch both Laker losses from his Newport Beach home but found it difficult.

"It's much harder to watch them as opposed to playing the game," said Bryant, who was not allowed to attend either game. "I was kind of going back and forth. It's tough to sit there watching."

He flipped back and forth between the game and the movie "Superman."

Superman?

"Corny," Bryant said, smiling. "He's not Batman. That man's self-made."

Bryant, who said he would appeal the $289,943 in lost salary, acknowledged that the Lakers probably would have won both games with him.

They lost to Utah by four points Sunday and trailed the Jazz by one going into the fourth quarter of Tuesday's 90-80 loss.

"But, I mean, you just have to pick it back up," Bryant said. "We're not going to sit here and worry too much about these two games. We're just dealing with it."

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Bryant returns Friday against Philadelphia, a game that will have the league's second-leading scorer and Allen Iverson, the league's top scorer.

Smush Parker and Sasha Vujacic will be busy defensively.

"They have not played good defense for quite a while," Jackson said. "We'll chase and we'll play team defense and hopefully play as well as we can."

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A sign of the times: Jackson called free-throw shooting the most exciting part of Wednesday's practice.

The Lakers, struggling at the line for most of the season, made the required number of free throws at the end of practice and did not have to run for only the second time this season.

Jackson requires the team to make nine of 12 free throws or run. The team made 10 of 12 Wednesday.

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