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LAKER REPORT

Jackson Puts Mind to Work

January 14, 2002

Phil Jackson's return to Chicago went nothing as he'd hoped.

The Lakers lost in overtime, Shaquille O'Neal threw a breezy punch that'll cost him maybe five games, and Jackson wasn't able to see good friend John Lithgow, in town doing a play.

That being said, the electric purple tie was worth the visit.

Still, Chicago always seems to set the typically unsentimental Jackson to thinking, and this time it was about his coaching mortality. Halfway through the five-year, $30-million contract he signed with Jerry Buss, and having turned 56 in September, Jackson said he would serve, "Probably until the end of this contract."

If he is serious, that would give the Lakers 21/2 years to come up with a new coach and a new center. O'Neal reiterated that he'd follow Jackson to retirement, though probably not to Montana.

"If Phil leaves in two years, then Mr. O'Neal leaves in two years," O'Neal said. "I will not play for any other coach."

He would retire at 32, then, and with $61.9 million left on his contract.

*

Charles Oakley, 24 hours before O'Neal arrived in Chicago: "I ain't going to be no railroad track for him to just run all over me. I've guarded him before because, as everybody knows, I'm a pretty good defensive center. It's a challenge. It's like trying to move a tank.

"But I can't understand why everybody's so scared of Shaq. I've never seen more NBA players scared of one man. To me, it's part of the job, and I never back down from any challenge."

*

The Lakers have lost eight games, three to teams that were in last place in their divisions.

Also, four of the losses were in the second of back-to-back games.

In order, they lost to Memphis when the Grizzlies were last in the Midwest Division, the Golden State Warriors of the Pacific Division, and the Bulls, last in the Central Division.

TONIGHT

vs. Memphis, 7:30

Fox Sports Net

Site--Staples Center.

Radio--KLAC (570).

Records--Lakers 26-8, Grizzlies 12-24.

Record vs. Grizzlies--1-1.

Update--The hotter of the two teams? The Grizzlies have won three in a row, including a double-overtime victory in Utah on Saturday night. Pau Gasol (16.0 points a game) and Shane Battier (15.1 points per game) are having solid rookie seasons.

Tickets--(800) 462-2849.

Tim Brown

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