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LAKER REPORT

Fisher Won't Knuckle Under

April 01, 2002|Tim Brown

The first knuckle on Derek Fisher's right forefinger is sore and swollen, but not broken, according to X-rays taken after Sunday's game.

An hour after he scored five of the last seven Laker points in their 96-95 victory against San Antonio, the left-handed-shooting Fisher said he did not expect the injury to hinder him.

"Once it's warmed up and everything's flowing, I really don't feel it much," Fisher said.

He suffered the injury March 22, when Detroit's Ben Wallace smacked him with his elbow. In five games since, Fisher had avoided hard contact on his hand until the first quarter Sunday. Since the Detroit game, Fisher has made 20 of 50 field-goal attempts, seven of 20 three-pointers, including a critical one against the Spurs with 2:19 left that brought the Lakers to within 95-92.

"Winning always makes you feel better," Fisher said.

*

Losers by 12 points Friday night, the Portland Trail Blazers left unconvinced of the Lakers' superiority. Ruben Patterson claimed the Lakers aren't that good on the way out of town, and Steve Kerr concurred Saturday.

"I think I felt more comfortable after the game," he told the Portland Oregonian. "To me, last year the Lakers looked unbeatable. Now they look a little more vulnerable. They are still by far the best team and the team to beat, but [Shaquille O'Neal] doesn't quite look right. He looks like he is banged up a bit.

"Saying that, he puts 34 [points] on us, which shows how good he is. But you can just tell defensively he definitely is not the same and maybe that will pick up in the playoffs."

*

The big sodas at Staples Center come with payment books, so when the nice-looking family behind the Laker bench lost two of them in a pregame loose-ball incident, no one felt worse than Mark Madsen.

It was Madsen who gave chase to the ball that banged off the rim, bounded off the top of Phil Jackson's game chair and short-hopped two Buckets-o-Cola. The contents flooded the family's shoes and pooled into the aisle.

"Oh gee, I'm so sorry," Madsen said. "I'm really sorry."

He reached over the bench and shook hands with the family members, a look of utter regret across his face.

"I wish I could buy you a couple," he said, tugging at the sides of his pocket-less shorts. "But I can't. I don't have any money on me right now."

They smiled at his apology, worth the price of the drinks. Maybe.

*

Barring an injury or a drastic change in philosophy, Mitch Richmond appears to have played his last important minutes for the Lakers.

Sunday was his fifth DNP--CD in six games, his only playing time in that period has been 12 minutes in what started as a blowout against Cleveland. Jackson said he spoke to Richmond about staying involved, in case there is a change.

The Lakers sold out their playoff tickets in about 90 minutes Saturday. A combined 17,000 tickets were available for up to 15 games.

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