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Pro Basketball | LAKER REPORT

Anything but a Memorable Trip

April 07, 2002|Tim Brown

MIAMI — The Lakers left Los Angeles six days ago. They had hopes. They had dreams. They had no idea.

They play the dead-and-gone Miami Heat today in the last of a four-game trip. No matter the outcome, they will have had a fairly miserable time, losing twice in the Northeast without Shaquille O'Neal, ruining the home-court aspirations they claimed not to have and killing the momentum they said they didn't need.

O'Neal's wrist is sprained and Coach Phil Jackson is limping worse than usual, additional agony for a man beset by afflictions of the back and hip. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis is carrying six stitches in his lower leg and power forward Samaki Walker is short a few pounds because of a viral infection. Lindsey Hunter has a nasty cough, Robert Horry's Achilles' tendon is achy and trainer Gary Vitti has sweat through a couple of suits running from patient to patient.

The Sacramento Kings, meanwhile, went east, worked their way west, and won all six games, so it seems they'll coast to the Pacific Division title. While the Kings finished that up, Walker was in a dingy locker room sharing his disappointment in teammates he believed "gave up" during a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics. He did not mention anyone specifically, but apparently only Jelani McCoy, who is on the injured list, and O'Neal were without blame. Perhaps they all regretted they didn't bother with a shoot-around Friday morning at FleetCenter, since they turned that into a tidy 28-for-82 mess in a 99-81 loss.

None of it matters if Shaq can become Shaq again in the next two weeks, in time for the playoffs, in time to make the Lakers the Lakers again.

Jackson expects O'Neal to play today, though officially O'Neal, who received more treatment Saturday, is a game-time decision.

Before he injured his wrist, O'Neal appeared to be moving better, suggesting his new shoes and orthotic devices were easing the season-long pain from his arthritic big toe. O'Neal won't say. He addresses the media only when moved, and lately that's often meant after he scores a lot of points.

Saturday's practice at AmericanAirlines Arena was optional, and a handful of Lakers showed up, some to shoot, some to lift weights. Derek Fisher shot jump shots and free throws, and a yellow-shirted security guard pushed rebounds back at him.

Hunter, Slava Medvedenko and Devean George played a three point-shooting game, while Mark Madsen set up security guards like cones and practiced his pull-up jump shot.

*

TODAY

at Miami

2:30 p.m. PDT, Channel 4

Site--AmericanAirlines Arena.

Radio--KLAC (570).

Records--Lakers 53-23, Heat 33-42.

Record vs. Heat--0-1.

Update--In last place the last time it played the Lakers, the Heat got a little healthier and made a run at the playoffs before falling off again. Pat Riley has clinched his first losing season as a coach. Before beating Milwaukee, 102-97, the Heat had lost three in a row and seven of eight. The Lakers have lost two in a row. They've lost three consecutive games in the Phil Jackson era once, when they fell to Atlanta, Portland and Boston over five days in February.

*

Tim Brown

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