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Bryant’s future uncertain

Washington: The uncertainty hanging over National Basketball Association star Kobe Bryant, charged last week with sexual assault, extends to his on-court future.

Bryant, 25, had already been expected to miss the Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico next month because of knee and shoulder surgery.

He has been selected to represent the United States in the 2004 Athens Games, and no decision will be made on his Olympic status until after a possible trial on charges of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman while staying in a hotel in Colorado, on June 30.

Bryant was formally charged on Friday, and his next court date is scheduled for August 6 in front of a Colorado judge.

There could be a request for a preliminary hearing, and if Bryant enters a plea then he would be entitled to a trial within six months. A trial is likely to take four to six months.

Bryant says the woman consented to sex, and his lawyer has said he will plead not guilty.

The NBA says Bryant can remain on the Lakers’ roster when training camp opens in early October. “He will be allowed to play while proceedings are going on,” NBA senior vice-president Brian McIntyre said.

The NBA, no strangers to its players’ runs-in with the law, has a policy of not taking action against a player before a criminal case is resolved. However, it is possible the demands of a trial wouldn’t allow Bryant to play.

“There is some uncertainty here as to whether Kobe will be able to play or not,” president of one Western Conference team said. (AFP)

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