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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

He's Going to Take It on the Chin for the Kings

April 19, 2002|T.J. Simers

DENVER — I've decided not to shave, just like the time-honored tradition the players follow, until the Kings are eliminated from the playoffs or carry the Stanley Cup above their heads.

This is going to cause problems with the wife, who says she won't kiss me unless I shave, but I know this, if Andy Garcia had a full beard and was willing to make out, she wouldn't be around to kiss me anyway.

*

NOW WITH so much riding on every playoff game--my neck is already beginning to itch--I went to the Kings' morning skate Thursday at the Pepsi Center and talked puck with Jason Allison, our best player. I told him I want more goals out of him during the playoffs.

"I just want to do whatever is best for the ..." he said, and I stopped him in mid-sentence, and told him everyone warned me he was a dullard and the master of cliches, but it's time now not only to score more, but show a little personality.

"A dullard?" he said, rubbing his beard. "OK, I'll score more goals for you in the playoffs."

I sometimes wonder if I should have been a hockey coach.

*

I RAN into Andy Murray, who gets paid to get more out of these guys even though I'm doing the job for him, and told him I set Allison straight.

"Did you get him to open up to you?" Murray said.

No problem, I said, you just have to call him a dullard, and then he wants to show he's got Jay Leno potential.

*

MURRAY HAS likened Allison to Shaquille O'Neal, and Thursday he said he's also "like a quarterback, who gives you the opportunity to control the game with time of possession."

I asked what baseball player he might be like, and Murray said, "He plays hard every night," so there's no comparison to any baseball player. I guess when it became obvious I could be a hockey coach, he decided it was time to audition for Page 2.

THERE'S NO question, like Shaq, everything rotates around Allison on the ice. But when Shaq gets the ball, he dunks. When Allison gets the puck, he passes it to someone else to shoot. He has 55 assists but only 19 goals. "Isn't there a center in basketball," Allison asked, "who passes instead of shooting all the time?"

I believe it's usually the center who is matched up against Shaq.

*

ALLISON THEN began kidding around, and I'm beginning to believe now it's L.A. and not me, because since I've been in Denver, I've found Eric Karros, Kazuhisa Ishii and Allison to be relaxed, engaging and even funny. Of course, I've always found Karros funny. I just wonder now if I should stay in Denver all the time and wait for an occasional visit from one of our L.A. teams.

Now that Allison and I were chummy, he revealed he really does want to score more. But he said the seven-month layoff before joining the Kings hurt his aim. "I've been nervous around the net," he said. "The puck hits my stick, and it's like I grab the stick harder instead of just relaxing and miss."

I told Allison to "relax," and right away I could tell he felt better about his chances of scoring more, and I wonder why Murray never thought of telling him that.

*

THEY DON'T allow any cheering in the press box here, and do you know how hard that is on us King fans. Everyone in the stands was cheering for the Avalanche and going crazy because Peter Forsberg was playing for the first time since the Kings knocked the spleen out of him last year.

When the game started, Allison wasn't on the ice, and Murray likens him to Shaq? Do you think Phil Jackson would start the playoffs with Jelani McCoy? Then came the second unit, and Allison was still on the bench.

"Hey Andy, put in Allison," I yelled, and apparently they also don't allow yelling in the press box.

I kept track. In the first six minutes of the game Allison was on the ice for 20 seconds. Murray compared Allison to a quarterback--shoot, the kid running out onto the field to retrieve the kicking tee is out on the field of play longer than Allison, who finished the first period without a shot on goal.

Avs 1, Kings 0, and I wonder why, Andy.

*

THE KINGS went down, 2-0, in the second, Murray called time out to tell the guys that's not good and I would be writing about them. They immediately tied the score, and Allison had yet to put a shot on goal. Maybe somebody should draw him a map and show him where the net is located. What's Murray doing during the break between periods?

*

ALLISON TOOK a shot early in the third, and it was like watching Shaq shoot free throws. Instead of aiming for the net, Allison slammed one off Colorado goalie Patrick Waugh. But at least he took a shot.

The Avs went ahead, the Kings tied it, the Avs went ahead, and Allison missed the net--giving him one shot on goal all night. I'm going to have to have another chat with Allison before Saturday, because we need him, or I'll be shaving again by Tuesday night and kissing the wife.

He just can't let that happen.

*

TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from dwallace@dpsm.usc.edu:

"Look mom, I'm the page two columnist for the Times. Blah, blah, blah. Mike Garrett is a jerk because he won't take my calls. Blah, blah, blah. Hockey is boring. Blah, blah, blah. I'm so embarrassed my daughter is dating a grocery store clerk. Blah, blah, blah. What happened to the idea of giving the page two column to writers with talent?"

Funny, every time I get an e-mail from usc.edu, it's just blah, blah, blah.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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