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SERIES REPORT: NBA PLAYOFFS / WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
| LAKER NOTES

Motivation Is No Problem for This One

May 15, 1998|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER

Lakers vs. Jazz.

"All we want is what they have," Kobe Bryant said of Utah, the defending Western Conference champions. "That's where the rivalry kind of comes from."

Yeah, kind of.

The Jazz is the team with the former starting center who ripped Shaquille O'Neal after the second round a year ago and eventually found himself on the ground.

The Jazz is the team with the current starting center who riled some Lakers with a throat-cutting motion.

The Jazz is the team that knocked the Lakers out out of the playoffs a year ago.

And the Lakers felt as if they had unfinished business with the Seattle SuperSonics?

"I hold grudges for a long time," said Rick Fox, still not over Greg Foster's emotional reaction in the fourth quarter of the March 28 game won by the Jazz. "They just don't go away."

O'Neal, meanwhile, said he's done with Greg Ostertag off the court. His hardest planned smack to Jazz players is to knock them off their pedestal.

*

The apology came in the form of the original message, a first-person story by Bull Coach Phil Jackson in ESPN magazine that appeared to the world as though he was trying the Laker job on for size for next season, including how O'Neal would look in the triangle offense.

"As I write this," Jackson said, "I'm thinking there were things written in the first installment of this diary . . . that were misconstrued and out of character. I am doing this diary more as a remembrance of the season than as a way to discuss my job future or other coaches. The comments have caused a lot of second guessing, hurt feelings and rebuttals. I need to set some of the record straight.

"My comments about the Lakers and Del Harris, for instance. I was not in any way lobbying for a job. I believe in the triangle--or triple post--offense and I sometimes look at other teams and ponder how they might do under its principles. In fact, I think Del Harris handled the angry situation I referred to rather well."

Harris' original response came with pointed humor--"I don't think appropriate has anything to do with Chicago these days"--so it wasn't like he wanted an apology.

"Phil's a pro," Harris said. "We have to talk so much, it's a wonder we don't get caught saying more that we have to edit out."

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