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Triangle Offense Veteran Harper Doesn't Disappoint in His Debut

October 20, 1999|TIM KAWAKAMI

John Salley dunked, barely. Phil Jackson drew a technical foul, loudly. Glen Rice banged and boarded his way to eight rebounds.

And, most fascinating in Tuesday night's 97-90 Laker exhibition victory over the Golden State Warriors at the San Diego Sports Arena, Ron Harper, 35 years old, gimpy knee and all, zipped around the court like a player, well, half his age (or more), providing a resounding display of exactly why Jackson wanted him in the first place.

Not so much for his scoring, though Harper, who started in the place made vacant by Kobe Bryant's broken hand, scored nine points.

Not so much for his aerial acrobatics, though Harper did complete one gliding, fastbreak layup, plus drawing the foul.

"Those of you who watch this team can see what Ron brings us, a fluidity and a flow," Jackson said.

Harper, a five-year, three-championship veteran of Jackson's triangle offense, cut to the right places, brought the ball up at the correct angles, sliced in for key rebounds, and apparently still has enough gas left in the tank to shake his teammates and get them cruising again.

In fact, he had enough energy and enough quality cutting, passing and rebounding on Tuesday, that, even after Harper practiced only five times since signing with the Lakers (1-1), Jackson kept him in for 23 extremely effective minutes, far exceeding the coach's announced plan to play Harper only about 15.

Harper made two of his six shots, five of his nine free throws, grabbed six rebounds and had two assists and two steals.

Why did he play so much?

"He kept telling me he wanted to go back in," Jackson said. "He kept saying, 'Get me back in, get me back in.' So I put him back in."

The rundown of the Harper Effect on the Lakers:

* With Harper in to start the game, the Lakers pulled out to a 13-8 lead in the first six minutes.

* With the 13-year veteran out for the last part of the first quarter and the first part of the second quarter, the Lakers were outscored by 23--adding the last six points of the run even with Shaquille O'Neal and Rice in the lineup, and the Warriors jumped to a 47-29 lead.

* Then Jackson put Harper back in with about five minutes left in the half, and immediately the Lakers went on an 18-2 run to finish the second quarter, closing the Warrior lead to 49-47.

The Lakers continued the push through the third quarter--with Harper playing all but the final 51 seconds--and lifted their lead to 80-66 as the fourth quarter started.

And then it was left up again to the third teamers, who blew a 17-point lead in the Lakers' previous exhibition game, a loss to the Washington Wizards last Wednesday.

This time, however, a large guy named O'Neal was sent out to help, and Derek Fisher, who played large all night, eventually was added to protect the lead.

And this time, though O'Neal struggled at the free-throw line again, several key baskets by Fisher and rookies Devean George and Andy Panko at the end kept things from completely falling apart.


With Bryant unavailable for several more weeks and Jackson's affinity for large players at both guard spots undiminished, the 6-foot-8 rookie George has seen some time at both the shooting and lead guard positions recently.

"He doesn't have the top of the floor skills right now," Jackson said, "but I want him to get them and I want him to have the opportunity to play them.

"So that in emergency situations. . . . we've got the ability to put him on the court with some confidence."

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