Kobe Bryant '85 percent' sure he'll play in Lakers opener

LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant says he's "85 percent sure" he'll play in the Los Angeles Lakers' season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Bryant has not played or practiced since straining his right foot in an exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 21. Lakers coach Mike Brown called Bryant a game-time decision for Tuesday night.

Bryant said after the Lakers' shootaround Tuesday morning that he thinks he'll play.

"It's just a matter of how sore [his foot] gets from now until I get to Staples [Center]," Bryant told reporters.

Bryant participated in the Lakers' shootaround and is expected to test his foot at the Staples Center on Tuesday night before making a final decision on whether he will play. If Bryant sits, the Lakers are expected to start Jodie Meeks. Meeks averaged 9.1 points as a starter in 50 games with the Philadelphia 76ers last season.

Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and center Chris Kaman will miss Tuesday's game because of injuries.

"He's a tough, tough cookie," Brown said Monday. "He's been through a lot and bounced back quickly from a lot of stuff."

At least one of Bryant's teammates was preparing for him to play.

"I've seen this before," Metta World Peace said. "Whether it's preseason or regular season he plays. This is the first game of the regular season. There is no way I can see him missing it."

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Regardless of Bryant's status, Dwight Howard will make his official Lakers debut with Steve Nash. Sidelined since early April after having back surgery, Howard played in two of the Lakers' final three preseason games and averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks in 24.5 minutes. Howard isn't certain how many minutes he'll receive to start the season, but Brown plans to also play him in the second game of the Lakers' back-to-back Wednesday night at the Portland Trail Blazers, provided Howard doesn't have any setbacks against the Mavs.

"I'm sure teams are going to be doing their best to go at me," Howard said.

The Lakers are hopeful the health issues don't become a bigger concern than their actual opponents. Reserve forward Jordan Hill is available to play, but was recently sidelined with a back injury.

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"Health is a key ingredient to a team's success," Nash said. "Ultimately, you wonder how it affects a team throughout the year. I feel pretty good."

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