September 25, 2003 03:01 PM

While Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant awaits his Oct. 9 preliminary hearing in Colorado to face sexual assault charges, his coach, Phil Jackson, has revealed how the case might affect Bryant’s season.

“We are going to prepare a cocoon or trustworthy space for him to play in a safe manner,” Jackson told TV’s “Celebrity Justice,” adding that he still expects Bryant to have a “terrific season.”

The Lakers guard, 25, has been charged with sexual assault after a 19-year-old woman accused him of rape during his June stay at the Colorado mountain resort where she worked as a concierge. Bryant, who is free on $25,000 bond, denies any wrongdoing and says the two had consensual sex.

“My best key for him is to let basketball be your statement,” he said. “That’s where your genius is and your personality comes through when you play the game.”

Jackson went on to say: “Going on the road, being somewhere, that’s difficult and there’s going to be difficult situations. He’ll always have his team to rely on and the locker room to be a safeguard and basketball to be a showcase for his genius.”

In the latest development in the case, Bryant’s attorneys have argued that the hoops star’s accuser has no right to be excused from testifying at the preliminary hearing next month, reports Reuters.

Bryant’s legal team apparently wants to ask her about an incident that reportedly took place four months before she said Bryant attacked her, when police took her to the hospital because she allegedly was considered a danger to herself.

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