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NBA FINALS | NET NOTES

Scott Has Center by Committee

June 06, 2002|Elliott Teaford

Todd MacCulloch, the New Jersey Nets' 7-foot center, approached Coach Byron Scott the other day in an attempt to offer some insight into defending Shaquille O'Neal, his 7-1 Laker counterpart.

As Scott related their conversation, MacCulloch told him he believed "he caught Shaq on a night when he was tired." Scott was not pleased, but he has come to appreciate his center's twisted sense of humor.

You see, O'Neal torched MacCulloch for 40 points and 12 rebounds in the Nets' 101-92 loss March 5 against the Lakers at Staples Center. O'Neal sat out the Nets' 94-92 victory April 3 at East Rutherford, N.J., because of a sprained right wrist.

"It's a mismatch for anyone," Scott said in a more serious tone of attempting to slow O'Neal, who began the NBA Finals with a 26.4-point scoring average. "Are we depending on Todd to neutralize Shaq? No. Are we going to depend on our three centers to play Shaq? Of course."

In addition to MacCulloch, who faced O'Neal in last season's finals while serving as Dikembe Mutombo's backup with the Philadelphia 76ers, Scott also will call on 7-0 rookie Jason Collins and burly 6-9 forward Aaron Williams.

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By now, you probably know the oft-told story that former Laker Coach Pat Riley trademarked the phrase, "Three-peat."

What you might not know, what Scott explained Wednesday afternoon, was that Riley was not alone in coming up with a catchy slogan for the Lakers' attempt at a third consecutive NBA championship in 1989.

"We were sitting in the pool in Hawaii, trying to come up with a phrase to motivate the guys," Scott said. "We had just won our second championship and we were going for our third. We came up with 'Three-peat.' The next thing I knew I saw it on T-shirts and caps. Everywhere. Then Chicago asked about using it when they were going for three in a row. It's a catchy phrase."

Ah, but whose tongue did it roll off first?

All Scott would say was, "I think [Riley] owes me $2 or $3 million. But I guess he was smart enough to trademark it."

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Forward Kenyon Martin was suspended twice this season for a total of seven games because of his thuggish play. He says he has learned his lessons but won't back away from the physical side of the game.

"What I did was I made a couple of mistakes," he said. "I'm not going to change the way I play. I played smarter. I played the way the game is supposed to be played."

Martin is one of several Nets who are expected to shadow Laker guard Kobe Bryant. Martin, at 6-9 and 230 pounds, has a size advantage against Bryant, who is 6-7.

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