SACRAMENTO, Calif. (ESPN) -- Bobby Jackson expects to play for the Sacramento Kings on Sunday after missing the last five weeks with a strained muscle
in his abdomen.
Jackson, the NBA's top sixth man last season, also expects the Kings to return to the form they showed before he got injured -- before Chris Webber
returned from a knee injury 3½weeks ago. That's when Sacramento hit its worst slump of the year while trying to integrate its best player into what
had been the NBA's best team.
"We know how good we can be," Jackson said after feeling no discomfort during a lengthy practice Friday. "We're not giving that same effort every
night. We're not guarding nobody. That's one through 10. Everybody is killing us. We know what we've got to do. We can't make excuses. We have to come
out and play defense."
The Kings (51-21) led the Western Conference by just two games entering Friday's action -- a tenuous hold on the spot they've occupied since late
November. Sacramento is 8-6 since Webber's return, including four losses in the last six games.
Jackson averaged 13.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game before getting hurt Feb. 20 at Chicago. He has missed 19 games.
"My stomach is fine, but my feet are barking like I ran a marathon today," Jackson said. "You never know with this injury. There's always going to be
a little discomfort. If I need surgery, I can get it after the season, but right now I think I need to be out there."
Jackson's absence has been costly, forcing Mike Bibby to play extra minutes and leaving the team without a true point guard when Bibby rested. The
Kings also miss Jackson's spark plug presence on their defense, which has allowed 103.7 points over the last six games.
The Kings refused to rush Jackson back, because such injuries can linger for months if not properly rested. Shaquille O'Neal battled a stomach injury
for much of last season, and Washington's Gilbert Arenas twice re-injured himself earlier this season when he attempted to come back too early.
Forward Gerald Wallace, out 15 games with a sprained left foot, also returned to practice Friday. He expects to play Sunday, forcing the Kings to make
a roster move that might send guard Rodney Buford to the injured list.
Sacramento also has fallen 1½ games behind Indiana for the NBA's best record, while the Los Angeles Lakers moved within 2½ games of the Pacific
Division lead with their 115-91 pounding of the Kings on Wednesday night.
Coach Rick Adelman put the Kings through a physical workout Friday, with another planned for Saturday, a day before a home game against the Wizards.
Six of the Kings' final nine games are on the road, including a brutal trip to face all three playoff-bound Texas teams next week.
Barring any setbacks, Adelman expects Jackson to play approximately 20 minutes Sunday.
"I told him, 'I don't care about your feet,'" Adelman said with a grin. "He hasn't been out here in a long time, but you can see the difference he
makes just by being out here at practice. He raises the level. It changes the rotation a lot having him ready to play, and it changes our energy level
off the bench."