Laker General Manager Jerry West takes a Joe Friday approach to the morning newspaper: Just the facts, ma'am.
If West has a strong opinion, he usually goes off the record to express it. And he doesn't like to see his players say anything with too much bite, either.
Last season, West advised funnyman Mychal Thompson to cool it with the one-liners, although he might as well have told Eddie Murphy to quit kidding around.
West also has been known to threaten to fine players for inflammatory remarks, whether directed against a teammate or an opponent.
Tuesday night, West was in Hawaii, on personal business, so he missed Wes Matthews' postgame skewering of Xavier McDaniel, whose hands had to be extricated from Matthews' throat during a third-period incident in the Lakers' 103-85 loss to the SuperSonics in Seattle.
But chances are that when West gets word of Matthews' words, someone may have to pay--namely, a reserve guard whose hyperkinetic personality already rubs West the wrong way at times.
When Matthews first was approached by reporters after the game, he started out slowly. "I've got nothing to say," he said.
And he didn't--for about a heartbeat. Then Matthews proceeded to call McDaniel a derogatory sexual term, and said he couldn't wait to get back at McDaniel in Los Angeles.
"His bald head will be mine," Matthews vowed.
Laker rookie guard Milt Wagner, sitting next to Matthews, was barely able to suppress a giggle when he heard what was being said.
"Get y'all some big-time quotes," Wagner called out to the assembled reporters.
But Matthews didn't slow down even after being reminded that he was setting himself up to be fined.
"Whatever it costs me, it costs me," Matthews said. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help us win, even if it's a fight or a so-called altercation."
Last season, it may be recalled, Matthews challenged Knick General Manager Al Bianchi, then an assistant coach with Phoenix, to a fight in the parking lot after an incident in a game against the Suns. Bianchi responded by calling Matthews a "helium head."
Challenging McDaniel is another story. X, as he is known, is one of the league's reigning tough guys. In his first training camp as a Seattle rookie, he fought just about everybody on the SuperSonic roster. That's why Michael Cooper looked incredulous when told of Matthews' remarks.
"Does Wes really think he can take on X?" Cooper said.
McDaniel said he grabbed at Matthews' neck because the Laker guard had tried to kick him when McDaniel fouled him while in pursuit of a loose ball.
"My mama and my daddy always told me, 'Never lay your feet on someone,' " McDaniel said. "They told me you need to get your butt whupped when you do that."
For the moment, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is playing with all the enthusiasm you might expect from a 40-year-old who knows the money games won't be played for another six months.
In his last four games, Abdul-Jabbar has scored 12, 12, 10 and 10 points. He needed an overtime against Milwaukee last Sunday to reach double figures. He has taken more than 10 shots only four times this season, and he has attempted just two free throws in the last three games, none in the last two, a sure sign of passivity.
Tuesday night, he committed a shocking eight turnovers, including three traveling violations. The Lakers' fourth-quarter comeback was short-circuited when Abdul-Jabbar traveled, then had the ball stolen from him by rookie Derrick McKey on consecutive possessions.
Coach Pat Riley said Abdul-Jabbar isn't in shape yet, but still would like him to become more involved.
"Kareem has sort of become the third or fourth option on offense," Riley said. "He's averaging only nine shots a game (actually 10.2, after his 5-for-15 outing against Seattle), and that's not enough.
"He's got to get more into it, be more available. We don't want to force getting the ball to him, but he has to get there quicker, sooner."
Riley said he probably made a mistake by not working the Lakers harder in practice.
"Because of Magic's feet, Kareem's age, James' legs, we worked more on things like timing," Riley said. "We've got to get back to hitting and drilling."