Tuesday , Jan , 27 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Shaq close to returning, Malone not

El Segundo, CA (Sports Network) – Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal,
who has missed significant time with a strained right calf, practiced
Tuesday and could return to the court on Wednesday against Seattle.

O’Neal has been sidelined the past 12 games, while the Lakers have struggled
in his absence going just 5-7.

The All-Star center, who was examined Tuesday morning by a club doctor, was
cleared to practice. O’Neal went through a light workout and according to
reports felt good. He will be examined by the team doctor again on Wednesday
and plans on playing if he receives clearance.

In 27 games this season, O’Neal is averaging 20.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and
2.6 blocks per contest.

Karl Malone, meanwhile, isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star
break. He is likely to miss another nine games with a knee injury. Malone
missed only 10 games in his first 18 seasons in the NBA, all with the Utah

Since joining the Lakers in the offseason he has sat out 16 contests since
being injured. Los Angeles is 6-10 in those games.

Lakers’ All-Star guard Kobe Bryant also missed practice for the second
consecutive day due to soreness in his shoulder.

Bryant did not speak to reports after the practice, but he is expected to play
in Wednesday’s contest.

The Lakers are 26-15 good for second place in the Pacific Division. After
hosting Seattle, the Lakers will welcome Minnesota on Friday night.