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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Throw Book at Lakers, and They Might Be Quiet

February 25, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

The Lakers have made so much progress recently.

Instead of feigning illness and leaving the court in disgust after being benched, when Isaiah "J.R." Rider got upset Friday night for being pulled, he made it look good by getting a hall pass from Coach Phil Jackson to go to the bathroom-- and then pout.

Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?

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THE LAKERS HAVE won three in a row, have a favorable schedule to make it eight in a row, and with Kobe Bryant in street clothes, I've never seen Shaquille O'Neal happier.

Right now the Lakers can do no wrong. The other night the defending world champions had Devean George, Tyronn Lue, Mike Penberthy, Mark Madsen and Robert Horry on the floor at the same time and the team was still charging full price for admission. Of course, without Kobe, none of the stiffs really wanted to shoot the ball, which accounted for the team's 30 assists, and because they were playing Atlanta, 113 points.

The guy next to me got so carried away by the Lakers' display of teamwork, he said, "Look, Phil's up and doing some coaching."

I noted that Jackson was on his feet, all right, but it was pretty obvious he was just trying to work out a cramp.

The thing is, we all want to believe everything is good again for the Lakers--even to the point where we imagine Phil is doing some coaching, because it's time the guys got on track to successfully defend their title.

But I contend the Lakers are in for some hard times, because they can't shut up. In the next few weeks we're going to hear Phil and Kobe and Shaq reveal their innermost feelings, and every time these guys do that, we get another episode of "Family Feud."

Phil has a book coming out at the end of March. I asked him what it's called, and he said, "I don't know."

Of course, he knows the name of his book, so I'm guessing he's embarrassed, and it's probably something like, "I Dream of Jeanie." If it's "I Dream of Anyone Else," then we're really going to have some fireworks.

His first book, "Maverick: More Than a Game," which detailed his drug use and personal life, scared NBA officials for the longest time from making him a head coach. You put a pen and a piece of paper in front of this guy, and he acts as if Andy Sipowicz is standing over him demanding a confession.

In "Sacred Hoops--Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior," he let us know he's way out there--which explains how he communicates with Rider, I guess.

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SHAQ HAS A book coming out in April. It's called, "Shaq Talks Back," and I would imagine there is a picture of Kobe on the cover shooting the ball with Shaq screaming at him to pass.

"A lot of people are going to be mad at me for the things I've written," he said. Maybe Oprah Winfrey will make it her book of the month, and invite Kobe to read passages from it out loud on the eve of the Lakers' playoff opener.

I have a feeling "Shaq Talks Back" will inspire a lot more controversy than his last book: "Shaq and the Beanstalk."

It gets worse. Word is "60 Minutes" is shadowing Phil to do a story on him. Great, now we have to worry about both Mike and Rasheed Wallace.

There's more. Word is "60 Minutes II" is doing its own report on Kobe, and you know this problem he has with being so honest. We'll know when it airs--because that will be the last time we hear Shaq singing in the showers.

Here's the deal. I'm pretty sure the Lakers can beat anybody out there if they just play basketball, but how do we keep them from chewing themselves up? Last week HBO's "On the Record with Bob Costas," had Costas asking Phil, if he had to trade either Shaq or Kobe, which would it be?

Instead of saying, "I don't know," the way he does so well with the local media, Phil said he'd keep Shaq. Remind me to ask Kobe: If you had to get rid of Phil or Tex Winter--who goes?

I'm just glad Costas didn't ask him to choose between Kobe and Rider--you know what he'd say, and we might never get Rider out of the bathroom.

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WHAT AN AWESOME night of entertainment--and I was at a Clipper game.

If I'm playing for Portland, I'm thankful I'm playing the Lakers in the playoffs and not these kids.

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WHAT AN AWESOME night of entertainment--and I was at a Clipper game.

In what could be a turnaround game for a team that has flirted with success only to be gunned down by their inexperience, the Clippers knocked off Portland for the second time this season.

Michael Olowokandi was the leading scorer--do you believe in miracles?

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ACCORDING TO VARIETY, Universal Pictures paid $800,000 for a script, which will star Ben Stiller, entitled, "Go to Hell, Mike Piazza."

I'm guessing the sequel will be: "You too, Gary Sheffield."

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LAST WEEK Paul Stankowski complained the media doesn't know much about most of the players on the PGA Tour because it devotes all of its attention to Tiger Woods. The Lakers said Stankowski, or whatever his name is, was here for the game with Atlanta, but since I didn't know what he looked like, I missed him.

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

"If Jackson can win seven NBA championships by 'not coaching,' maybe you can win a Pulitzer by not writing. Give it a try."

My role model is Alvin Gentry.

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

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