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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Numbers Could Crunch Lakers' All-Star Quartet

January 28, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Enjoy the four Laker all-stars while you can. Their future together is now.

Considering that three are guards and two, Eddie Jones and Kobe Bryant, play the same position, it seems inevitable that one of the numerous trade rumors involving the Lakers eventually will come true.

But even if Jerry West wants to keep them together, the Lakers' talented young nucleus could come undone in the not-so-distant future.

Led by NBA Commissioner David Stern, an overwhelming majority of owners reportedly favors reopening the collective bargaining agreement with the players' union after this season.

Their goal is to replace the soft salary cap, which has enriched players and owners, with a hard cap, which would more greatly enrich owners.

After next season, Shaquille O'Neal, Nick Van Exel and Bryant will be in position to become free agents. Jones will have that option one season later.

Let's say the Bird Exception, which allows teams to re-sign its own players at any cost regardless of the salary cap, has been eliminated by the end of the 1999 season.

Let's say a hard cap, giving teams zero flexibility, is in place at $37 million a year.

O'Neal probably will be able to command $20 million.

Bryant probably will be able to command $17 million.

Even we liberal arts majors can figure out how much that leaves for Jones, Van Exel and the rest of the team.

I don't doubt that O'Neal and Bryant would take less than their market value to remain Lakers. Living in Los Angeles affords them numerous opportunities, financial and otherwise.

It's unlikely O'Neal could have attended the American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on a night off Monday if he were playing in Indiana.

But would they leave enough room under the salary cap for all-stars Jones and Van Exel--not to mention $7-million-a-year reserve Elden Campbell?

Moses Malone used to say he could win an NBA title playing with four guys from his hometown, Petersburg, Va. O'Neal and Bryant might have to recruit three of them.

*

When negotiations finally begin, will the Dodgers pay the amount it's going to take to extend Mike Piazza's contract and prevent him from testing the free-agent market next winter? . . .

Piazza isn't gambling that they will. . . .

He bought a $15-million disability insurance policy for security if he's injured this season. . . .

Until Tuesday, the most famous athlete playing for an L.A. or Orange County team was not O'Neal, Piazza or Paul Kariya. . . .

It was Jorge Campos. . . .

I can assure you that sports fans in Kazakhstan who are vaguely aware of Shaq are very familiar with the flamboyant Mexico goalkeeper. . . .

But the Galaxy had little choice but to trade him. . . .

Kevin Hartman, reacquired from Chicago, will not be a gate attraction like Campos, but the former UCLA keeper will at least be available for all the games. . . .

Alan Rothenberg, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, says Michel Platini, head of France's organizing committee for the 1998 World Cup, has suggested moving the U.S.-Germany game out of Paris. . . .

Platini recommends Normandy. . . .

Alameda County officials are considering whether to sue L.A. Councilman Nate Holden for tortious interference of a contract because of his announcement the Raiders might return to the Coliseum. . . .

Donald Sterling said the Clippers have been asked to join the Kings and Lakers in the new downtown arena when it opens in 1999. . . .

He didn't say whether he will do it, but he probably would prefer that to transferring his team to the Great Western Forum when the Lakers leave. . . .

"Their building is as old as ours," he said. . . .

Few quarter-milers have emerged faster than Riverside's Tyree Washington, who will run the 500 yards in the Feb. 6 L.A. Invitational at the Sports Arena. . . .

Washington was the 41st-ranked American in 1996. In 1997, he was ranked second in the world. . . .

It's possible West's critics are correct when they say he isn't a genius, using the seven-year, $49-million Campbell deal as evidence. . . .

But West is smarter than the 12 general managers who passed on Bryant in the 1996 draft.

*

While wondering if we've seen the end of Pete Sampras' era, I was thinking: Brent Barry will be a star somewhere else, Mike Holmgren didn't have to order some of his defensive players to quit, the start of the Year of the Tiger changes nothing on the PGA Tour.

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