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Peers Are Confident Rider Will Thrive

Pro basketball: Several NBA players feel this free-agent signing is a real steal for the Lakers.


The old men's gymnasium on the UCLA campus is not a place for casual conversation in the summer.

Basketball players are here to work on their games for the upcoming season, be it college or pro. The afternoon begins with shooting and passing drills, and evolves into invitation-only pickup games that are hotly contested.

But there was is a buzz Monday afternoon, and it had nothing to do with pagers and cell phones. Current and former NBA players in attendance are discussing the Laker signing of free-agent guard Isaiah Rider.

"In a word, it's a steal," said former UCLA player Mitchell Butler, who played with Rider in Atlanta.

Other players were pretty much in agreement with Butler. Rider may have had problems off the court, but on the court his talent is unquestioned. And to turn him loose with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the Laker triangle offense will cause headaches for whoever has to defend them.

"He's one of the best two guards in the league," said Toby Bailey, another former Bruin who played last season with Phoenix. "It will be interesting to see what Phil [Jackson] can do with spreading the ball around. [Rider] likes to shoot it a lot, and so does Kobe and Shaq. If he can get them all to share the ball, the Lakers will be real dangerous. I don't see anything stopping them from getting another ring."

Houston guard Shandon Anderson said Rider is "a good guy" who should fit in with the Lakers with no difficulty.

"He's going to be a very important part of their offense," Anderson said. "When you look at how Brian Shaw and Ron Harper played at guard last year, they played big. And Rider's going to be that type of guy. He can easily average between 16 and 20 points in that offense. There's enough ball out there for everybody to be happy."

What Rider has to do, the players said, is to ignore the attention from the media and fans. While Los Angeles doesn't have the intense scrutiny of New York, there will be plenty of folks waiting for Rider to get in trouble again.

"A lot of times, when you're young and you make a lot of money, you make mistakes," said Pooh Richardson, a free agent whose 10-year NBA career included stops with the Clippers, Pacers and Timberwolves.

"But now he must put the past behind him. He's with a great organization, surrounded by a lot of players who are coming off a championship year and know how to win. He has no option but to come in and do what he needs to do to help the team. . . ."

Tracy Murray, who played with Rider in Portland, said Rider should be able to handle his new situation.

"The media was just as tight in Portland when I was up there, and Toronto when I was up there," Murray said. "He has to keep his poise and do what he does best--go out there and and play some ball."

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