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LAKERS REPORT

Jackson Not Bullish About Trip

April 03, 2001|TIM BROWN

The trip includes Utah, Chicago, Boston and Minnesota--four games in six nights, three of them against playoff or near-playoff teams.

So you know which game really worries Coach Phil Jackson.

Chicago, on Thursday night.

The Bulls have won 12 games, a decent three weeks when Jackson was there. Maybe it's the Wednesday night off in Chicago that really concerns him.

"They're playing good basketball," he said. "They're losing games in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.

"Right now, we're not executing with the kind of precision that we have to down the stretch to get that kind of game. That's a game for us that'll be critical."

The Lakers have been vulnerable against poor teams, having lost 11 games to teams that won't make the playoffs or are close to being eliminated.

Two or three losses on the trip could mean a difficult first-round road matchup with Portland, Dallas or Utah for the Lakers.

"We're supposed to go 4-0 on this trip," Shaquille O'Neal said. "Anything else would be . . . "

*

After Kobe Bryant's aborted comeback Sunday, the Lakers again are gauging the sturdiness of his left ankle hour by hour.

As of Monday afternoon, the moment the Laker charter departed for Salt Lake City, his availability for tonight's game against the Jazz depended on this morning's shoot-around.

Bryant, apparently weary of spending large blocks of time discussing the injury, smiled and waved off reporters at Monday's practice. He did not practice. Jackson, probably just as weary of it, said he would need to know that Bryant is capable of playing, not merely able to play.

"The last thing I'm going to do is put him out on the floor without getting him some shots again in a sequence that's somewhat team-oriented," Jackson said, "so we have an idea exactly where his shooting is. I think [Sunday], though it was all timed up so he could go out there and be comfortable, it still wasn't in a format. Consequently, his shooting was awry."

In 11 minutes, Bryant missed four shots. Asked if he believed Bryant--or the team--had rushed Bryant's participation, Jackson shook his head.

"No," he said. "Not rushed at all. It's just that he didn't have a practice to get after it and shoot. There's nothing he can do to this thing to re-injure it. According to doctors, he might be at a level where he's not 100%, but he's certainly not going to damage himself."

*

In five NBA seasons, Derek Fisher had never taken a shot to decide a game with time running out.

When he missed that 15-footer against the New York Knicks on Sunday, a shot followed by the final buzzer and a 79-78 loss, he had one thought.

"I wished that game could have gone on forever," he said with a wry smile. "It was difficult. You always dream about being in that situation. But you don't know how to handle it until it comes."

O'Neal, option No. 1, was double-covered. Fisher pushed up the shot against Charlie Ward. Horace Grant, Fisher was told, was open to his left. The truth is, Fisher didn't look.

"I think I went a little too fast," he said.

*

Referee Danny Crawford, who mistakenly assessed a technical foul on Laker rookie Mark Madsen in the first half of Sunday's game against the Knicks, admitted to Madsen he erred on the call after seeing a replay at halftime. The Lakers lost, 79-78.

It won't get the Lakers the loss back, but it could save Madsen $500, the typical fine for a technical foul. Crawford believed Madsen had thrown the ball at Glen Rice in anger, when actually the ball had slipped out of Madsen's hands.

TONIGHT

at Utah, 5 p.m. PDT

Channel 9

* Site--Delta Center

* Radio--KLAC (570)

* Records--Lakers 48-26, Jazz 49-24.

* Record vs. Jazz--1-2.

* Update--The Jazz has won two in a row, but it lost three in a row before that and Utah is 6-5 since March 11.

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