Bryant sat out the Lakers’ 109-93 victory over Dallas on Tuesday night because of soreness and weakness in his surgically repaired knee. He has said he hopes to play against the Suns.
“Probably Saturday, probably at the shootaround,” he said when asked when a final decision will be made.
Bryant went through a second straight day of practice on Thursday without incident and said afterward his surgically repaired right knee “feels pretty strong.”
”“It’s primarily my muscles, mainly in my right leg,” Bryant said. “I have to pace myself early on. I don’t expect to play 35 minutes. I definitely have to pace myself.
“I’m just looking forward to getting back on the floor and playing.”
Coach Phil Jackson said he will leave it up to Bryant as far as when he’s ready to play.
“I don’t know if he’s ready to play in Saturday’s game,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be up to him.”
While Bryant is getting physically healthy, he also tried to downplay his feud with Shaquille O’Neal.
“We’re cool. We talked this morning. He said what he said, I said what I said. We put it behind us,” Bryant said after the Lakers’ victory. “Shaq and I are going to move on, be teammates and help this team to a fourth title.”
“It will be totally different,” said Bryant, the NBA’s second-leading scorer last season with a career-high 30.0-point average. “We do a lot of scoring off movement. I just pretty much run the lane. We have so much talent on the team.”
Malone and Payton combined for 36 points, 18 assists and 17 rebounds in the win over the Mavericks.
“Everybody’s acting as one. As soon as Kobe gets back, it’s going to be even better. If we stay aggressive, it’s going to be easy every night.”
It’s been a tough opening stretch for Phoenix, hosting the two biggest stories in basketball this season in a span of 48 hours. The Suns hope to have as much success against the Lakers as they did against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Amare Stoudamire scored 25 points, including a pair of three-point plays in a fourth-quarter run, as Phoenix beat Cleveland 95-86 on Thursday night. Stephon Marbury added 24 points and Shawn Marion had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Phoenix opened the regular season with a 83-82 loss to San Antonio.
STANDINGS (through Oct. 30): Lakers - 1st place, Pacific Division. Suns - 4th place, 1/2 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - Payton, 21 ppg; Malone, 10 rpg; Payton and Malone, 9 apg. Suns - Marbury, 24.0 ppg and 6.5 apg; Marion, 9.0 rpg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Lakers, 3-1.
LAST MEETING: April, 6; Lakers, 115-113, OT; At Los Angeles, the Lakers overcame a five-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to send the game into overtime. Bryant hit a jumper with 28 seconds left as Los Angeles overcame a 40-point effort by Marbury.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lakers - 0-0 on the road; Suns - 1-0 at home.