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LAKER REPORT

Jackson Not Worried by Lackadaisical Play

November 29, 2002|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Phil Jackson said after Wednesday's loss in Orlando that too many Lakers hadn't played hard.

He said it the way he might have mentioned a turn in the weather, a mild curiosity rather than a cause for alarm, almost not worth the observation.

Though it was the Lakers who were on their way to a 5-11 record, having lost weakly the night before in Miami despite the rising challenge to dismiss the season's first three weeks, the Magic was quicker to the ball, quicker to the floor, more determined through the screens.

"We're not playing hard enough, actually," the coach had said to no such probing question. Just, brought it up.

And he wasn't mortified.

"Well," he said, "we're playing hard. We're not playing hard enough.... We just can't throw the 75% game on the floor and expect to win."

As Kobe Bryant brushed up against the line between demanding more of his teammates and casting blame in a postgame grope for answers, other theories surfaced.

The new players either aren't playing (Tracy Murray) or aren't helping (Kareem Rush).

The role players are hurt (Samaki Walker, Devean George, Mark Madsen), making a historically thin bench utterly waifish, or missing shots (Rick Fox, Robert Horry). Those who have shot well (Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher) haven't shot enough.

So, on a day spent at Shaquille O'Neal's dinner table, where they could give thanks for Robert Horry's shot and Robert Mohr's scalpel, the Lakers also had much to consider on their evening flight to Memphis. They are 3-9 without O'Neal, 2-2 with him. They've lost seven consecutive road games. Bryant routinely calls out his teammates, the injured ones as well as the healthy ones.

Asked on his way to the bus when all of this might get worrisome, Fox leaned against a cinder-block wall and said, "Christmas."

"I'd like to see Shaq get 10 games under him," Fox said. "Everything is, right now, being washed out ... so we can go forward and be intact."

This, Fox said, amounts to little more than the bully with his back turned.

"Blood in the water, man," he said, laughing. "Sharks are out."

*

O'Neal, to persistent questions about his size: "I'm 345 pounds, 16% body fat. Ask [strength coach Jim] Cotta."

Cotta: "I don't know what his body fat is. What'd he say he weighed?"

*

The Lakers are 0-4 in the second of games on successive days, but the cause isn't likely fatigue. They're 0-4 in the first, as well.... Fisher, in the four games since O'Neal's return: 54.2% field goals, 46.7% threes, 17.0 points per game. In the 12 games without O'Neal: 32.4% field goals, 24.3% threes, 7.9 points per game.... George (ankle tendinitis) is eligible to come off the injured list for Sunday's game against Minnesota.

*

TONIGHT

at Memphis Grizzlies, 5, Ch. 9 (delayed 6)

Site -- The Pyramid

Radio -- KLAC-AM (570), KWKW-AM (1330).

Records -- Lakers 5-11, Grizzlies 2-13.

Record vs. Grizzlies (2001-02) -- 3-1.

Update -- The Grizzlies have won two in a row since starting 0-13, a winning streak that puts them 2 1/2 games behind the Lakers in the Western Conference standings. You just knew Jerry West would have them closing in on his former team in no time.... Hubie Brown is 2-5 since replacing Sidney Lowe as coach.

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