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NBA PLAYOFFS | SERIES : NOTES

They're Trail Blazers in Body and Spirit

April 21, 2001|TIM BROWN

The reality of such a difficult first-round matchup continues to weigh on the Lakers, according to Laker Coach Phil Jackson, ever wary of Portland's talent and depth.

"We're not discounting anything that has gone on this season with this team," Jackson said of the Trail Blazers. "This team is going to give us fits. We know it and we're going to have to be mentally strong and prepared for them."

Bottom line, Jackson said, "They think they're better than we are. That's their general disposition about our team--they're the better personnel, they're going to come in here and kick our butts. So we have to be prepared for that attitude."

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Kobe Bryant is newly married to Vanessa Laine and freshly annoyed by reports of the wedding this week in Dana Point. The two had been engaged for about a year.

Normally a willing and engaging interview, Bryant has grown somewhat reserved in recent weeks because of what he viewed as prying questions regarding his private life.

"I don't have to talk about anything," Bryant said Friday. "I'd rather not."

When the next question was on the same subject, Bryant said, "Aren't we here to talk about the playoffs? Don't we have a big Game 1 coming up?"

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Bryant and Isaiah "J.R." Rider played one-on-one after practice, an activity Bryant always enjoys. Bryant believes Rider's powerful lower body and strong post game prepare him for difficult inside players, and Portland has several of them.

Meantime, Bryant's ankles have strengthened, a result of four days between games and, by the time Game 2 is played, one game in eight days.

"We all can [benefit]," Bryant said. "We have a lot of members on this team fighting knick-knack injuries, along with some of the elderly folks."

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It is official that Doug Collins, the new coach in Washington, will continue to broadcast throughout the playoffs for NBC, something that appeared to disturb Jackson on Thursday. By Friday, he was more accepting.

"I wouldn't say 'disturbed,' " he said. "It's just different. He's not a neutral person anymore. He's messing with the product."

He said he wouldn't complain.

"Why should you?," he said, grinning. "NBC and the NBA are co-habitating well together."

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Laker assistant Jim Cleamons has been mentioned in Cleveland as a possible replacement for Randy Wittman, who was fired Thursday. Clipper assistant Dennis Johnson reportedly is interested in the opening. . . . Ron Harper practiced Friday, though for only about a quarter of the activities. He's not expected to play until later in the series, if not until the second round. . . . Forward Horace Grant, who has tendinitis in his left knee, "gimped his way through practice," Jackson said. He will play Sunday.

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