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LAKER REPORT

Buss Ponders Size of Roster

October 18, 2002|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

Laker owner Jerry Buss, courtside for Thursday night's exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors, cringed at the fuss that surrounded him for two days, starting the moment he grabbed his neck in front of all those celebrities.

"I tried to get off the stretcher twice on the way out," he said. "I kept telling them I was OK."

In his signature jeans and pullover sweater, Buss appeared hale, having conducted team business for much of the day.

Already well over the luxury-tax threshold and being tempted to keep 13 or even 14 players, Buss met with team officials Thursday on the subject of a roster that will be set in a week. The Lakers open the season Oct. 29.

"I had a meeting with Mitch Kupchak today," Buss said of his general manager. "We made some decisions."

Kupchak reiterated that a player who could help -- particularly in light of injuries to Shaquille O'Neal and Mark Madsen -- could be carried into the season, and that the cost would be minimal. Contracts do not become fully guaranteed until nearly halfway through the season.

Center Soumaila Samake and guard Jannero Pargo have played well enough for the Lakers to consider the cost of retaining them.

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Buss spoke Wednesday night to Magic Johnson, who is considering an offer from the Seattle SuperSonics to buy into that franchise and divest himself of his partial Laker ownership.

Johnson said earlier this week that he was leaning against the deal, and Buss said he got the same sense in his conversation with Johnson.

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O'Neal said he was told to expect to be cleared to run in "probably about a week," but not before his surgeon, Dr. Robert Mohr, chastised him for rushing ahead of his rehabilitation schedule.

"He told me not to do that anymore," O'Neal said before Thursday's game at the Arrowhead Pond. "He said I abused it."

That said, team officials do not believe O'Neal did any lasting damage by running on his surgically repaired toe earlier than recommended.

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The Lakers defeated the Warriors, 91-89, with Kobe Bryant scoring 22 points.

Samake and Samaki Walker started in the frontcourt.

Robert Horry, who has a mild case of tendinitis in his right knee, did not dress. Brian Shaw has a strained left groin this week and did not play.

Rick Fox played in his first exhibition game. He missed the first three because of a strained lower back.

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