- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

LOS ANGELES Kobe Bryant returned to practice with the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday but still was not 100 percent as he recuperated from suspected food poisoning that cut his practice short Wednesday.

"I was able to come in and run," Bryant said at the end of practice at Staples Center as the Lakers made final preparations for Game 3 of their Western Conference finals with the Sacramento Kings. "It feels pretty good outside of the fatigue factor. Yesterday I wasn't able to go. Today I feel fine. I feel like I could do everything I could do before I got sick."

Bryant's stomach problems had plagued him ever since he ate a bacon cheeseburger and a slice of cheesecake late Sunday night. He managed to play 40 minutes and score 22 points in Monday's Game 2, but the Kings tied the series at 1-1.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson gave the team Tuesday off, and Bryant said he spent most of the day in bed with stomach pains. He left Wednesday's practice about 45 minutes before it concluded to be examined by a Los Angeles internist.

Bryant said he fully expects to play tonight. However, he said he wouldn't know exactly how good he feels until game time. Bryant said he didn't realize he was still sick Tuesday because "I slept all day."

Jackson said he expects Bryant to be "100 percent" by game time.

Added teammate Shaquille O'Neal: "He had a subpar game the other night. He doesn't like to have two subpar games in a row. We didn't lose that game because Kobe was shaky. We're at home now. Our chefs, our food, our wives."

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