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Jackson Is Not Too Worried

January 29, 2002

ATLANTA — They are halfway to where they want to be, to a game they care about, to a moment they are sure is worthy of them.

Through 41 games, the Lakers stand about where they did last season: restless, underachieving and wondering probably when the playoffs start.

They have offered hope to every last-place team in the NBA, a remarkable lack of achievement given their attempt to become the fifth team in league history to three-peat.

Coach Phil Jackson, perspiring through a black sweat suit after practice here Monday, said it was merely part of the process. Both of his previous three-peat teams have had their clumsy moments.

"This isn't unusual," Jackson said. "I'm not in a situation where

Indeed, the practice was filled with laughter. After Philadelphia, they are 0-1 on a five-game trip General Manager Mitch Kupchak said could dictate his mood going into the Feb. 21 trading deadline.

"I'm gauging about who I can play and who I can't," Jackson said. "Who can play in critical times, who can play in the soft moments of the ball game. That's what I'm gauging."

He is assuming this 13, then.

"I'm not crying out for any more help," Jackson said. "We obviously have not found a rhythm yet as a team, where we really know how to play together as a group. But, we still have five or six guys


In keeping with his recent disregard for the Los Angeles media, Shaquille O'Neal issued a profane no comment after Sunday's loss in Philadelphia, but spoke later to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Despite the six-point defeat and Dikembe Mutombo's 13-point, 18-rebound game against him, O'Neal said the Lakers have nothing to fear in the 76ers.

"Hell, no," he said. "They're obviously good. But I don't see that intensity I saw last season. I don't see that fire. I just don't.

"I'm not worried about them at all. If they want to prove me wrong, all they have to do is make it back to L.A. for the Finals and go against us."


Kobe Bryant came away from Monday's visit to the White House impressed by President Bush.

"I didn't vote for him, but I like him," he said. "I'm glad he's our president in this situation."


Tex Winter was back at practice Monday, happily bouncing entry passes to forwards and swingmen in a 30-minute drill in a gym at Philips Arena.

Despite signs of an irregular heartbeat that will be tested in Los Angeles, Winter will stay with the club for the remainder of the trip, Jackson said.


Mark Madsen turned 26 Monday.... Last time in Atlanta, the Lakers lost, 108-106. They haven't lost to the Hawks at home since 1989.


at Atlanta, 4:30 PST

Channel 9, 5:30 (delayed)

Site--Philips Arena.

Radio--KLAC (570).

Records--Lakers 29-12, Hawks 14-29.

Record vs. Hawks (2000-2001)--1-1.

Update--The Hawks were expected to be much better, but have lost 154 man-games to injury, and have not had a player start every game. Center Theo Ratliff, the key figure in the trade that sent Mutombo to Philadelphia last season, has missed all but three games because of a hip injury. Toni Kukoc and Emanual Davis are on the injured list, each with a fractured wrist. Coach Lon Kruger's two-year record is 39-86. The Hawks have lost nine of 10 games. Five of the losses were at home.

Tim Brown

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