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Bryant to play in Lakers' season opener

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant gave his Los Angeles Lakers team mates a late boost when he pronounced himself fit enough to play in the regular season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

The All-Star guard, who had been sidelined for eight days by a strained right foot, had said earlier on Tuesday he was "85 percent" certain to take the court but would make a final decision before game time.

"Feeling good enough to play tonight! I'll use my strong midsoles for added cushion on the foot for more protection. Looking forward to this journey as I'm sure you are. It's Go Time," Bryant wrote on his Facebook page.

The 34-year-old league veteran was kicked in his right foot during the third quarter of the Lakers' 99-92 preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings on October 21.

Bryant did not play or practice again until Tuesday morning when he took part in a full shoot-around. He then said he would re-evaluate his foot once he arrived at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for the home game against the Mavericks.

Much is expected of Bryant and the Lakers in their 2012-13 campaign following the offseason acquisitions of six-time All-Star Dwight Howard and former twice Most Valuable Player Steve Nash.

Howard and Nash will join Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in a powerful starting five, though Howard is still easing his way into form after having surgery in April to repair a herniated disc in his back.

"Of course I want to play," Bryant told reporters about Tuesday's season opener. "We've put together a great roster here and I worked real hard this summer to get myself in tip-top shape and be ready to go.

"I'm not going to play with an injury that will get progressively worse and limp through the season. I worked too hard for that."

The Mavericks will be without 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, who is expected to miss about a dozen games at the start of the season while he recovers from knee surgery.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Rex Gowar and Nick Mulvenney)

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