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Will New Rules Isolate Lakers?

April 13, 2001|TIM BROWN

If Shaquille O'Neal is standing in crowds next season and feeling stifled by zone defenses legalized Thursday by the NBA, one thing can come of it.

"Mike Penberthy," Horace Grant said, "is going to be making Shaq money."

Penberthy, 26, with a pregnant wife, a reasonably priced car and a reliable jump shot, smiled.

"This is like a dream," he said. "Overseas, when they went to zones for four or five minutes, I'd have four or five shots. At some point I'm going to be open. You know, they've been zoning Shaq for as long as he's been in the league. It's nothing new to him. He's still going to be able to score."

O'Neal wasn't so sure. He said he'd have to play with the zones and junk defenses for a year, truly consider their impact before he'd decide just how much he hated them. Told he'd done all right against zones in college, he said, "Yeah, and I left college early."

"Well," he said, "at least I'll have something to add to my status as a player--'He was so bad they had to change the rules for him.' "

Among 29 NBA teams, the Lakers might have the most to lose. They have two players--O'Neal and Kobe Bryant--with strong isolation skills, one more player than most teams have, two more than many others.

"My sense, you're still going to need one-on-one defenders," Bryant said. "You'll still need that. And a good offensive player is going to find a way to score. We'll find a way. We have a clever coaching staff. Shaq and I will work well together. We'll figure a way to work around it."

Phil Jackson said the responsibility of the game should be on the offense to solve the defense, and fundamentally supported the new rules.

"It's going to affect Shaq, it's going to affect [Allen] Iverson, it's going to affect any scorer who has individual ability to beat players," Jackson said. "But this is for the betterment of the game overall. . . .

"It's still about player movement and ball movement. As coaches, we think we can coach the game, regardless. Zones have never prevailed."

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