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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Professor Jackson Needs Air Time to Explain Chemistry

May 11, 1999|RANDY HARVEY

Shaquille O'Neal starts playing defense with the same intensity he does offense, Kobe Bryant starts passing the ball, Glen Rice starts moving without it and creating space for his open three-pointers and--voila!--the Lakers have chemistry.

Kurt Rambis said Monday that the Lakers added that vital ingredient within the last two weeks. But the question remains: Does chemistry lead to winning or does winning lead to chemistry?

No one has ever been able to answer that definitively, not even the newest Laker expert--Phil ("Never Coached a Team to an NBA Title Without Michael Jordan") Jackson.

The only thing I know for sure is that it's still too early to tell whether the Lakers really have it. You can't be expected to acquire chemistry in 50 games and certainly not in the 28 that Rice has played for the Lakers.

It took the "Showtime" Lakers, to whom all Laker teams since have been unjustly compared, almost three seasons.

Most Laker fans no doubt have forgotten about the difficulties that Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon had in meshing their point-guard personalities and, even after that was resolved, questions persisted over whether the Lakers were Johnson's team or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's team. Does that sound familiar, Shaq and Kobe?

Fortunately for the '80s Lakers, Johnson triumphed in all of the intramural conflicts. Abdul-Jabbar, to his credit, didn't offer much resistance, wisely realizing that it was more important to win than be recognized as the alpha player.

It seems in recent games that Bryant has come to the same realization, which has made him and the Lakers better.

But if Houston's Scottie Pippen doesn't lose the ball with 7.6 seconds remaining, if Sam Mack isn't called for a questionable foul on Bryant, O'Neal doesn't block a shot as time runs out and if the Lakers lose by one point Sunday, we'd be talking today about their lack of chemistry.

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You'd think Pippen, with all of his championship rings, could be trusted to handle the ball with a one-point lead and time running out. . . .

But you have to remember that he doesn't have much experience with the ball in clutch situations during the playoffs. Who were the Bulls going to give it to, Pippen or Jordan? . . .

The one chance he had when Jordan took leave of his senses and the game to play baseball, Pippen refused to leave the bench. . . .

Anybody can make a mistake under pressure, Scottie. But what were you talking about after the game when you said Charles Barkley shouldn't have fouled O'Neal with 28 seconds left and your team leading by two? . . .

The hack-a-Shaq strategy has stood the test of time. . . .

You don't have to be Phil ("Never Coached a Team Other Than the Albany Patroons to a Title Without Michael Jordan") Jackson to know that. . . .

The favorite to replace Sigi Schmid as the UCLA men's soccer coach is Washington's Dean Wurzberger. . . .

Even before Sammy Sosa came to town, 43 home runs were hit in the first 15 games this season at Dodger Stadium for an average of 2.9 a game. Only 1.8 home runs a game were hit there last season. . . .

It's not all Chan Ho Park's fault. . . .

Putting a positive spin on the stat, Dave Tuttle in the Dodger publicity office says that there is less smog around the stadium this year to keep the ball in the park. . . .

The L.A. Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the L.A. Sports Council, is sponsoring a luncheon today at the Regal Biltmore Hotel for the Dodgers. . . .

Who has received more intentional walks than anyone else in the major leagues this season? Mark McGwire? Sosa? Ken Griffey Jr.? . . .

Adrian Beltre, with six. . . .

Where are the critics now who said the Dodgers should have kept Bobby Bonilla because Beltre couldn't hit well enough yet to play regularly at third base? . . .

Beltre had hits in 25 of 29 games and a .347 average going into Monday night's game . . . .

More impressive, he was hitting .310 with runners in scoring position. . . .

As a continuing public service, averages of other Dodgers with runners in scoring position: Jose Vizcaino .421, Eric Young and Devon White, .333, Gary Sheffield .281, Raul Mondesi .206, Eric Karros .189, Todd Hundley .143 and Mark Grudzielanek .086. . . .

Angels: Tim Salmon .364, Orlando Palmeiro .348, Troy Glaus .303, Randy Velarde .286, Garret Anderson .220, Darin Erstad .219, Andy Sheets .208, Todd Greene .200 and Mo Vaughn .188.

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While wondering why the Rockets put the ball in the hands of Cuttino Mobley at the end of the game when they had three Hall of Famers on the court, I was thinking: I know who won't coach the L.A. expansion team if John Elway becomes an owner, a jockey who shocks a horse should get a jolt from the same device, the Davey Johnson Dodgers are no less laid back than the Bill Russell Dodgers--it must be the team's chemistry.

Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com.

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