Bryant practices, will play in preseason opener

Kobe Bryant’s right foot, the most discussed body part in Southern California besides Dwight Howard’s back, improved sufficiently to allow the Lakers star to participate in practice Saturday.

Bryant had missed a pair of practices Friday because the foot was bothering him, leading to breathless speculation on Twitter about worst-case scenarios.

It amounted to little more than wasted keystrokes.

“He’s fine,” Coach Mike Brown said Saturday. “He didn’t have limitations” in practice.

Bryant is expected to play in the Lakers’ exhibition opener Sunday at the Save Mart Center in Fresno against the Golden State Warriors. His minutes will be limited like those of every starter as the Lakers slowly round into form for their Oct. 30 season opener.

The Lakers will play eight preseason games, a luxury after having only a pair of exhibitions to prepare for last season’s lockout-compressed season.

“With the two games it put a lot of pressure on us to try to get it right right away,” Brown said. “We don’t have to do that right now.”

Surprise starter
The box score from the Lakers’ first exhibition game could be a keeper for Robert Sacre or Greg Somogyi.

One of the rookie centers fighting for a final roster spot will be listed as a starter alongside Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.

Brown said he would start Sacre or Somogyi, possibly using the flip of a coin to make his decision, so that he could keep Gasol at power forward and allow his bench rotation to remain intact.

This could come as a shock to Jordan Hill, who was widely expected to take Howard’s spot in the starting lineup until the All-Star center completes his recovery from back surgery. Hill was listed as the probable starter in the Lakers’ official game notes.

Asked about the possibility of showcasing himself as a starter with Howard sidelined, Hill said, “Definitely. I mean, it’s the Lakers. Starting with the Lakers, it’s definitely a good feeling.”

Sacre or Somogyi will be able to tell him all about it Sunday.

Not that Brown figures a start in an exhibition game is a big deal.

“It doesn’t matter,” Brown said. “It’s the first preseason game. I think guys would be OK if I started [assistant coach] Darvin Ham.”

-Ben Bolch