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BILL PLASCHKE

Forward Progress?

Whoever Is Running the Lakers These Days Needs to Make This Deal: Glen Rice for P.J. Brown

August 02, 2000|BILL PLASCHKE

Grab Jerry Buss out of that velvet room.

Pull Jerry West out of his funk.

Shove the phone at Mitch Kupchak.

The charades that have dominated the Laker front office this summer have a chance to end with one word.

Two initials.

Sounds like sleepwear.

Could help send Tim Duncan and Rasheed Wallace to their rooms for naps.

P.J.

As in, P.J. Brown, a 6-foot-11 power forward who rebounds and plays defense and does not wear a bear on his head.

He was traded Tuesday from the Miami Heat to the Charlotte Hornets.

Which puts P.J. in a perfect position to be traded to the Lakers.

The Lakers know what to do.

Now they just need to decide who is in charge of doing it.

The Lakers need to trade Glen Rice to the Hornets for P.J. Brown.

Not only should they do it, but, more important in this era of indecipherable rules, they can do it.

Charlotte, with five power forwards and no veteran shooters, would be willing.

The Lakers, with no power forwards and a veteran shooter who doesn't fit the system, would be willing.

Rice, a free agent who would need to be signed before the trade, had the best season of his career in a Hornet uniform and would be willing.

The league, which allows a one-for-one player trade even if one of the players has just been traded from another team, would be willing.

Even the salaries fit.

The biggest obstacle seems to be, if Charlotte calls the Lakers, with whom do they leave a message?

Buss is the boss, but he doesn't make the trades.

West makes the trades, but he is busy negotiating with the boss for a sabbatical.

Is Kupchak ready to make his first big mark as the new Laker builder?

"Unless there's been an announcement that I'm not aware of, Jerry West is still in charge," Kupchak said Tuesday.

Whatever. Whoever. Somebody from the Lakers needs to stand up and make a statement that one NBA championship with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant is not going to be enough.

Without a power forward, one championship will have to do.

Unless you think the Lakers didn't get lucky last year when Tim Duncan injured his knee.

Unless you think it wasn't miraculous that the Lakers overcame a 15-point deficit in the last 11 minutes of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers.

In both cases, the Lakers were clearly vulnerable without a strong power forward.

Before the playoffs started, club officials privately acknowledged that the only team that truly scared them was the San Antonio Spurs because of their inside power.

When Duncan suffered his injury, that threat vanished.

During that fourth-quarter stretch against Portland, if Wallace makes only one of several open shots against the Lakers' outmanned power forwards, the Trail Blazers win.

When the Trail Blazers choked, that threat vanished.

Those who think the Lakers can trot out the same lineup next year and win another title are spitting into a Montana wind . . . perhaps like the one blowing in Phil Jackson's face as he shuffles across one of those gawdawful prairies hoping for a deal like this to happen.

"We need help in the frontcourt," Kupchak acknowledged. "Last year we felt A.C. Green and Robert Horry were fine, obviously, because we won a championship with them, and we'd be OK with them next year. But they're not getting any younger."

Kupchak said he recognizes the need to take some defensive pressure off O'Neal, and put some defensive pressure on those Western Conference loads such as Duncan and Wallace and Chris Webber.

"If we can also get somebody who could give us minutes at the center position, give Shaq a rest there, that would be great," Kupchak said.

That would be Brown.

He's a seven-year veteran who has made his mark in Miami by leaving his mark on everyone else.

The Heat has had one of the league's best defenses with Brown. Alonzo Mourning has become one of the best players in the NBA with Brown.

What he does is precisely what the Lakers need. He does the dirty work.

What Jerome Crawford does for O'Neal off the court, Brown would do during the games.

Yeah. A bodyguard.

Brown is active enough that O'Neal cannot be constantly double-teamed. He is strong enough that O'Neal can roam. He is versatile enough that O'Neal can sit.

He shoots better than Green, who probably won't be coming back--while allowing Horry to spend more time at small forward with Rick Fox.

P.J. Brown for Glen Rice makes this team better. It adds another coat to that championship veneer.

Right, Lakers?

Jerry? Jerry? Jeanie?

Anybody?

Bill Plaschke can be reached at his e-mail address: bill.plaschke@latimes.com.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Unplugging the A.C.

The Lakers, after getting by with A.C. Green as their starting power forward in their NBA championship season and then releasing him, are looking for an upgrade at the position. Candidates by trade or free-agent signing, with 1999-2000 per-game statistics compared to those of Green:

P.J. BROWN

Ht: 6-11

Wgt: 240

Min.: 28.8

FGA: 8.4

FG%: 48.0

Blk: 0.8

TO: 1.3

PF: 3.3

Tot. Reb: 7.5

Off. Reb: 2.7

Pts: 9.6

*

CHRISTIAN LAETTNER

Ht: 6-11

Wgt: 235

Min.: 29.8

FGA: 9.8

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