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LAKERS REPORT

Rider Wants to Play Here Next Season

April 12, 2001|TIM BROWN

Isaiah "J.R." Rider stood in a parking lot outside the team's training facility on a chilly Wednesday afternoon, brushed a hand over his head and said if the Lakers would trust him, he would help.

Rider was dismissed to the injured list Tuesday, the charitable alternative to being waived. He'll be kept around at least as long as the Lakers can determine the postseason availability of guards Ron Harper and Kobe Bryant. Anything beyond that for Rider is hazy, at best.

The charismatic, petulant, talented, flawed player said he valued his relationship with Coach Phil Jackson, that he hoped to return to the club not only for the playoffs, but for next season as well, and that it has all been, well, kind of a misunderstanding.

On a day when Jackson surprised everyone by canceling practice, Rider had been one of the last three players on the court. Rider shot at one basket. Bryant at another. Shaquille O'Neal shot free throws with Ed Palubinskas, his shooting coach.

Showered, dressed and on his way to his car, Rider grinned and said, "Just surviving. Hanging in there. Just hanging in there. Hopefully, things will work out."

It is possible he'll never again wear a Laker uniform. Probable, even.

"I just want my opportunity here, because I want to come back and play the way I know I can play," he said. "For this next week or so, without being fake or overdoing it, just let them know that I'm interested and I'm not bitter. Me and Phil talked about life and logic. Sometimes things happen for a reason. I can't find a reason right now. No, I don't agree with it. But at the same time, I've been able to accept it. And we talked about bettering ourselves as men, and everything, so I'm willing to accept that part of it too. It's bettering my life. That's where I am right now."

Rider admitted to moments of deep frustration when his playing time diminished, and times when he regretted not having taken Miami's off-season offer. Still, he said, he would like to return to the Lakers next season.

"They're a great organization," he said. "Wherever we go we get a lot of attention because of Shaq and Kobe, and that's what I would love to be around. There's things that happened this year, whether intentional or not intentional, being late or lacking a wake-up call or whatever, those things didn't help things any more."

*

On the morning after his first sustained basketball in three weeks, 35 minutes Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns, Bryant said his ankles were OK.

"I knew I was going to be a little sore, and I am right now, but I expected this," he said. "I didn't expect the game [Tuesday] night to set me back."

In a strong, balanced performance, Bryant had 20 points, six steals, four assists and one turnover.

"We've been playing well enough to win ballgames," he said. "On that road trip, it seems like we played well and other times didn't do so well but played good enough to win. [Tuesday's] game, we turned it around a little bit defensively, so it feels good to establish some kind of momentum.

"Playoff time is right around the corner. Like we've been saying, it's important to get some kind of momentum. It seems like the right time to turn it up."

vs. Minnesota

7:30, Fox Sports Net

* Site--Staples Center.

* Radio--KLAC (570).

* Records--Lakers 53-26, Timberwolves 46-31.

* Record vs. Timberwolves--2-1.

* Update--The Lakers have won five consecutive games for the third time this season. They have yet to win six in a row. The Timberwolves clinched the Western Conference's final playoff spot Tuesday night in Vancouver. The Lakers are 20-2 all-time against the Timberwolves in Los Angeles, including 13 consecutive home victories, and lead the series, 37-9.

* Tickets--(800) 462-2849.

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