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Xs and O's RICK MAJERUS

Lakers Go Back to Shaq Attack

June 01, 2002|RICK MAJERUS

The Big Aristotle finally met the few honest men for whom Diogenes searched. Call them Laker teammates, who finally came to grips with the fact that they had to go inside, inside and inside some more for Los Angeles to win this game, or most other games for that matter.

Phil Jackson, quite the philosopher himself, may have even gone so far as to help demonstrate the need by using Brian Shaw so much. Shaw may have the best sense of himself, of who he is and what his role is, on the Laker team, because, on almost every occasion, he got the ball into Aristotle O'Neal, making everybody at Staples Friday night Shaq happy.

It should be so simple. It seems so easy. Here is the greatest force ever to play the game. Pass the ball to him.

For Sacramento's sake, Shaq caught the ball too deep, too well and too often. He caught it early in the transition and even late as the ball swung to the second side of the floor. And if all that didn't work, he went and got it off the glass.

But the real stunner was that he conducted a clinic at the free-throw line--would you believe 13 for 17--making him perhaps the worst mechanical free throw shooter in the history of the game to achieve that sort of percentage.

Imagine what Rick Adelman and his Kings must be thinking: Good Lord, all this and free-throw shooting too?

Sacramento's worries have to be enormous now, and that's not to take anything away from this gutty, talented team. But if form follows function, as architect Frank Lloyd Wright was fond of saying, then the Kings must pray that Shaq isn't building any houses Sunday.

Certainly, with Game 7 in Sacramento, the Kings can take great heart in their prospects. But so can the Lakers, especially in the category of Sacramento's Chris Webber, who played his best game of the series and still couldn't get his team the win.

Let's talk about the referees, which I hate doing, but which will certainly be a huge topic of conversation after this one, especially in the northern part of the state.

Every game has been decided by who shoots and converts the most free throws. Friday, the Lakers were 34 for 40 from the line, the Kings 18 for 25.

So, does that mean the officials are playing favorites, or that there is some sort of league conspiracy to get this one to a seventh game, or to get the Lakers into the Finals for bigger TV audiences or whatever?

First of all, swallow and digest one axiom, a basketball forever. This game is impossible to officiate. Now, it is down to whose ox will be gored.

Sure, there were phantom fouls, mystery calls. Always are.

One play that will be hotly discussed is Kobe Bryant running over Mike Bibby at the end of the game. Well, you could make a case for that call both ways. Kobe clearly ran over him, but Bibby also hooked his arm around Bryant before that. So, what you had was probably a good no-call.

This is a fact of life. The referees won't acknowledge it, may not even know it outwardly. But there is a pecking order in the game. The stars get treated better. The same shot the Shaq puts up, Scot Pollard and Samaki Walker have to put up in a very definitive way, or they won't get the same call. For the officials, it's not overt, but probably subliminal.

It's reality, fans, like it or not. And it isn't just in basketball.

If Jack Nicholson is speeding down the road and gets stopped, he is Jack Nicholson and he has a real good chance to not get a ticket. If you are Laker Boy and you are pulled over, you've got yourself a ticket.

Deal with it Laker fans, because here comes Game 7, in somebody else's arena.

*

Rick Majerus, Utah basketball coach, will be The Times' guest analyst on the Lakers for the rest of the playoffs. Majerus, the fourth-winningest active coach in major college basketball, will begin his 14th season at Utah this fall.

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