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Laker Suo Prodded by Jackson

October 27, 2000|TIM BROWN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PHOENIX — The exhibition season closed with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant at the head of the offense, as they are prone.

And while they scored and everybody happily high-fived Thursday night at America West Arena, Coach Phil Jackson might have hoped for a pass or two and an attempt to include a few of their teammates.

While O'Neal and Bryant appear regular-season ready, the rest of the offense isn't. Isaiah Rider is not yet comfortable in the triangle. Horace Grant's jumper isn't game ready. Neither is Robert Horry's.

Ninety minutes before the Lakers would beat the Phoenix Suns, 98-84, Jackson was asked if, generally speaking, O'Neal and Bryant had used this camp to expand their leadership duties.

"I haven't been totally pleased with the leadership of those two, particularly," he said. "The leadership of [Ron] Harper and [Brian] Shaw has been good. They've been helping Rider and others. I've been trying to give [O'Neal and Bryant] gentle nudges toward being more inclusive in their offensive games, to include the other players, to run what we're trying to run as a system instead of deviating from the offensive game."

Of course, if only a fraction of the offense is to work right away, O'Neal and Bryant is a good place to start. O'Neal scored 19 points, 11 in the first quarter, and Bryant scored 22, 13 in the third quarter.

"I know they're trying to get their own offensive games ready for show time on Tuesday night," Jackson said, "but in the process we haven't quite gotten the kind of functioning I'd like to see. They can help that execution."

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The heavy cuts are underway in the NBA, meaning the Lakers could find the spot-up shooter or front-court depth they'd like on the waiver wire.

For one, Dickey Simpkins, who logged some years for Jackson in Chicago, was cut by Seattle.

"We're paying attention to that," Jackson said. "The way things usually boil out is that it takes things a while to settle down. Those players that are NBA players who are cut will probably find jobs in the next two to three weeks."

The Lakers have 15 players in camp for a 12-man roster and two places on the injured list. The conventional thinking has them cutting one of three guards--Cory Hightower, Tyronn Lue or Mike Penberthy.

"The vibe I get around here is pretty good," Hightower said.

Hightower was the 55th pick in the June draft by San Antonio. The Lakers traded two second-round picks for him, then played him for 30 preseason minutes.

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After sitting out Wednesday's practice because of recurring tendinitis in his right knee, Bryant started against the Suns.

"It's gotten better, actually, the last couple days," Bryant said. "Tonight I couldn't really explode off it like I wanted to. I was able to cut better, though."

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Horace Grant, who missed a practice and a game because of a sprained right thumb, returned to the lineup Thursday and made four of six shots.

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