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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Getting to the Bottom of Goldbricking Charges

February 08, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

I'm a little fuzzy on the details surrounding Monday's luncheon, but the way I hear it the Southern California Sportscasters Assn. is going to present civic-minded Laker owner Jerry Buss with a lifetime achievement award for keeping so many young women busy in the greater Los Angeles area.

Times Sports Editor Bill Dwyre is also getting an award, and while it obviously won't have anything to do with him and young, attractive women, I'm sure Buss and I will get a belly laugh out of whatever it is.

But there's also going to be time to kill, which means making small talk with Buss, and if I was paying $6 million to a guy to coach my team and all he did was sit around and make goo-goo eyes at my daughter. . . . You know he's going to bring it up.

I'll try to put him at ease and tell him about the grocery-store bagger who is engaged to my daughter, but I still expect to get an earful about Philip.

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AND HERE'S THE thing: You know Dwyre is going to give a speech, and I know how embarrassing it would be if Buss nods off. We've all been there, so I went to Staples Center on Wednesday night to talk with Philip so I could get some ammunition to keep Buss awake.

At the same time I learned I will be sitting at Jeanie Buss' table Monday night in Las Vegas for the ESPY Awards, and Philip won't be there.

I figured I should reassure the big guy that I've been married for 28 years, and despite meaningful eye contact with Bo Derek during the Hearns-Hagler bout years ago in Las Vegas, I'm not about to be knocked off course.

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Fortunately, it's Philip's practice before each home game to speak to reporters for a few minutes. I think it pumps him up to have so many reporters address him as "Your Highness."

Me, I just treat him like Dwyre.

Yo Phil, "Can you help me out with this perception that you make a ton of money, but you just kind of sit there on the bench and do nothing?"

The goldbricker smiled. I'm guessing that works with Jeanie.

"I pray almost 20 hours a day," he said, and I'm sure all the other reporters thought he was kidding.

"That's really important that you spend a lot of time in prayer, especially with these kids," he said. "They need it."

Obviously, someone told him I'll be spending time with the boss Monday, which explains the shameful bragging about the overtime he's putting in.

"But what about this perception that you'd just as soon sit around and let everything just work itself out?" I said.

I think the other reporters were beginning to get nervous that I was taking up too much of his time and they might not be able to get his autograph.

"I find in this game you don't really change people," he said. "Mostly players change themselves."

Or you just get used to J.R. Rider arriving late.

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I ASKED ROBERT Horry if Jackson does any coaching, and while he had to think for a minute, he said, "He coaches. He makes the subs."

Jack Nicholson could do that, and he'd put a lot more emotion into it.

"Time out," Rick Fox said. "Does Phil Jackson do anything? Is that what you are asking me?

"Sometimes we might have the same question in here, but I would say until proven differently, he's got the benefit of the doubt. When you have seven championships behind you, that's quite the resume."

It got him $6 million from Buss.

"It's a generous salary and I appreciate it," Philip said.

Now I know he's dating and that takes time and money, but I told him, "Some people have noticed there's this little Kobe and Shaq thing going on, and people were expecting you to be the savior and solve everything. Are you getting anywhere on that?"

Now you ask pointed questions like that to someone who works for the Dodgers and they throw a tantrum, but since Philip doesn't believe you can change people he could not have been any more accommodating in explaining that he really doesn't do much as coach of the Lakers.

"We had our situational things last year the same as this year," he said. "Last year was much more uncovered and a lot quieter. This year it got out of hand a little bit."

Are you telling me things were just as bad last season, but the only difference this season is that the media gave it more play?

"Kobe was ready to get after it when this season began and the rest of our team was . . . taking their time while he was going 78 rpm for the first jump ball," Philip said. "He wanted his teammates to respond and come up to that level, but they couldn't respond as quickly as he wanted them to."

I would think that would be the coach's job to make sure something like that happens--at least that's what I'm going to tell Jerry Buss on Monday.

As for Monday night, at some point I'll ask Jeanie if she has any interest in meeting this grocery-store bagger I know.

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OSCAR DE LA Hoya seems to think working with old-time trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. will make him a better boxer. He should have thought about working with Tony Bennett before his CD came out.

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DE LA HOYA IS GOING to fight some guy named Gatti and, just a suggestion, he might want to check if he's any relation to that godfather who is sitting in prison before really delivering any serious blows.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Howie:

"Dear Mr. Simmers, Bill Plaschke is actually my favorite sports columnist, but what do you think is the key to a good NBA team, and do you think Phil Jackson is really doing as good a job as he can?"

Ask Plaschke.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com

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