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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Somebody Tell Jackson These Games Don't Count

October 19, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

Sometimes people jump to the wrong conclusions, and just because the Lakers appear as if they will never win again and Steve Lavin is undefeated, as far as I know there's no move to replace Phil Jackson at this time.

Let's be honest, it's probably too much to expect Lavin to coach both the Bruins and the Lakers.

And right now I don't think anyone's in the position to really question Jackson's approach.

OK, so maybe one little question . . .

I know I've spent a lot of time around professional football and I know Jim Mora is no Phil Jackson, but I can't imagine Mora inserting Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James into the closing minutes of an exhibition game to try to win, or explain later he just wanted the opportunity to work on the team's two-minute drill.

Maybe professional basketball is different, and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal are more durable. Maybe Jackson is now under orders from owner Jerry Buss to get his money's worth out of the pair. Maybe Jackson's ego won't allow him to have the Clippers finish ahead of the Lakers in the exhibition standings.

But when he ran Bryant and O'Neal back into Tuesday night's game with 4:01 remaining against the Phoenix scrubs after the Lakers had pulled to within four, I was thinking what are the Lakers' chances of repeating as champions with Greg Foster and Emanual Davis leading the way?

(That Foster's a whiner by the way, and I know Jackson hasn't said if Davis is going to make the team, but he's wearing "Dunk" shoes, which tells me he has Shaq's stamp of approval.)

Now call it a freakish coincidence, but a short time after reentering the game that doesn't count for anything, O'Neal got tangled with some slug of a Phoenix player and toppled backward hard to the court. I'm sure the court suffered more damage than Shaq, but we were that close to seeing just how good of a coach Jackson really is.

*

JACKSON ALSO HAD a message for Isaiah Rider: You miss treatment for an ankle sprain, then let's see you limp around the court for 24 minutes against the Suns and see how it feels.

Although Rider made only two of six shots, his game of hopscotch on one good leg was not only promising, entertaining and skillful at times, but offered further insight into the up-and-down world of this enigmatic performer.

At his very best, he leaped high into the air to block two shots and set up two massive Shaq slams with magnificent lob passes. And with each grand play, Rider played to the crowd, a fist into the air, both arms waving for more noise, a finger tap to each side of his temple to reward himself for a heady play.

At his very worst, he tried to play the Suns one-on-five, obviously caught up in the emotion. He also had a disgusted wave for a whistle-happy official, a taunting glare for someone who had dared to try to shoot over him and an attitude that suggested everything best go his way.

In the Laker locker room, he could not have been any more approachable, flashing the charisma and the eye-to-eye contact that along with his athletic ability should have made him an NBA star long ago.

*

I HAVE A THEORY about Jackson. Basketball doesn't afford him enough of a challenge, so he takes on Dennis Rodman in Chicago and Rider in Los Angeles, knowing everyone in the league believes them to be uncoachable.

When you have Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Bryant and O'Neal, it might be easy to dismiss the talents of the guy in command, but with Rodman and Rider, there's a constant reminder that it's going to take an extraordinary coaching effort to get the most out of them.

*

I PUT ANOTHER call into USC's president, but no return call yet.

However, I'm on his trail. According to the Corvallis Gazette-Times, "Those supposedly in the know--or at least some in the Portland blab radio business--contend that [Oregon State Coach Dennis] Erickson is already signed, sealed and delivered to USC" to replace Paul Hackett.

I'm calling all the hotels in Corvallis to see if they have a Steven Sample registered.

*

THE NAMES OF Texas Christian's Dennis Franchione, Western Michigan's Gary Darnell and Georgia's Jim Donnan have already been floated as potential replacements--for Missouri's Larry Smith.

*

SEVERAL OF THE LAKERS weighed in on Alonzo Mourning's kidney problems and the use of pain medication the other day, but Rick Fox had a lot more to say in an online journal for AthletesDirect.com.

"I iced and iced and iced," he said. "I turned to Advil--it's over the counter, so it can't be that bad for you, I told myself. . . . Soon two turned to three and three turned to four and four turned into problems."

Fox said he dealt with pain in his joints last season and limited himself to three Advils on game day after taking Indocine from team trainers and learning about the drug's side effects.

"A kidney for a ring?" Fox said. "Let's face it, God must have given us two kidneys for a reason. I am not saying I would like to lose one, but boy, another ring sure would be nice."

Sometimes the medication can even affect what you say.

*

A HIGH SCHOOL football coach in North Carolina was fired after complaints came in saying he told a player during halftime of a game to "put a gun to your mouth and pull the trigger."

I'm still checking to see if the team played any better in the second half.

*

TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from John:

"Mr. Simers, or is it Mr. Rocker?

"While bashing Met and Yankee fans and New York City in general, have you forgotten the 'incident' at the Staples Center and the carnage wrought by people after the Lakers won?"

I think it's generally understood around here that all the damage was done by transplanted New Yorkers, who remain frustrated Knick fans.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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