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NBA PLAYOFFS | LAKER NOTES

Scott Doubtful Tonight; Career Could Be Over

May 12, 1997|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — It would be the most unjust ending of all: Byron Scott forced out by injury in the final game of his career.

But it's also a possibility. While the Lakers are listing their backup shooting guard as probable for tonight's Game 5 against the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals, Scott said Sunday his sprained right wrist is "pretty bad right now," with more pain and stiffness than before.

"The way it's feeling now, and the soreness and swelling, I don't think I'd be any good for the team," he said after sitting out practice.

If the Lakers lose tonight, their season is done. That means Scott's 14-year career could be too, because he would like to retire a Laker and there's a good chance they won't offer him another contract this summer as a free agent. It would take an unbelievable deal to get him to consider leaving Los Angeles, his hometown, just for one more season in the NBA.

If this is his final game, it would be an ending of sad irony in that one of the trademarks to his career has been an impeccable commitment to conditioning, to the point that, even at 36, he is probably in better shape than any of his younger Laker teammates. Imagine, then, being on the sidelines.

"I don't think like that," Scott said. "I don't think like that in two ways. I don't think it's going to be the last game of the series for us or that it's the last game of my career. I'm too positive for that."

So he will continue to get treatment on the wrist and plan to be in uniform tonight.

"Just hope for the best," Scott said.

*

Shaquille O'Neal (lower back spasms) and Eddie Jones (tendinitis in left knee) also sat out practice and are listed as probable, but both will almost certainly be in the starting lineup tonight.

"I, as a coach, am expecting that he will play," Coach Del Harris said of O'Neal.

*

After a season in which he has regularly pointed out a lack of superstar respect from officials and often taken that belief to them, O'Neal said he has made a pledge to stop arguing with the referees when a call goes against him.

"There's a double standard in life and every job," he said. "I just wanted to see what I could get away with. I saw what. Nothing.

"The key phrase for me is two simple words: Have fun. I'm still going to make faces, I'm still going to bang. But if I don't get a call, I'm not going to say anything."

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