EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) – Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson attended a scrimmage and a good portion of his team’s practice the past two days, and made his presence felt at Monday’s workout.

Jackson, who had right hip replacement surgery last Tuesday, jumped right in at practice and demanded his players run a part of the offense assistant coach Kurt Rambis was holding back.

“He came in and one of the elements of the offense that I’ve been holding onto because I didn’t feel like this group was ready for it, he shoved it right down their throats this morning,” Rambis said. “So he got them going on that part of the offense.”

Rambis, who has been running practices in the 61-year-old coach’s absence, said the offense Jackson insisted the players run was simply another way to initiate the triangle.

Rambis said Jackson was around for about three-quarters of Monday’s practice, but wasn’t there when the media was allowed in.

There is no timetable for Jackson’s return on a full-time basis, although he said the day before his surgery he expects to be on the bench Oct. 31 when the Lakers open the season against the Phoenix Suns.

Jackson won’t be with the Lakers on Tuesday night when they play Utah in Fresno to begin the exhibition season.

Rambis said Jackson spoke to the team about communicating on defense and passing, and the players seemed to be paying strict attention.

“He’s their ultimate leader,” Rambis said. “He’s the one that’s going to be commanding them for the majority of the season.”

Rambis said Jackson probably will return when his energy level is back to normal.

“You can see that he’s getting better, feeling better,” Rambis said. “Even from last night to this morning, he was spryer today and barking out commands to the guys. You could tell the itch was there with him. He’s eager to get back.”

Kobe Bryant, the defending NBA scoring champion who’s still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee three months ago, did a little work Monday without facing any defense. Bryant won’t play Tuesday night, and said his return to practice remains day-to-day.

He said he will continue to do weight training and therapy on his knee.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Bryant said. “We’re right on schedule. We’re just taking our time and were taking it day by day, but I feel it getting better, getting stronger.”

AP-ES-10-09-06 2106EDT

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