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LAKER REPORT

Birth Could Cause Shaq to Miss Game

April 17, 2003|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Shaunie O'Neal, Shaquille's pregnant wife, is not due with the couple's son until the end of April, but O'Neal on Wednesday said he could not rule out missing a playoff game to witness the event.

"I'm not thinking about it until it happens," he said after the Lakers ended their regular season with a win against the Golden State Warriors. "But, I will be there for the birth of my son. I gotta be the first black man he sees."

O'Neal had speculated in recent weeks that doctors would induce Shaunie's labor on a date convenient for both, in part to free him up for playoff games. He said Wednesday, however, that Shaunie was not ready for the procedure.

"I'm going to let it play out," he said. "She's not ready and I'm not going to force it. When the baby comes, I'm going to be there."

The Lakers play at Minnesota on Sunday and Tuesday, then return to Los Angeles for games next Thursday and Sunday. Shaunie's due date is April 27, the same day as Game 4 at Staples Center.

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Tracy Murray, as ever, made jumper after jumper on Wednesday night at the Arena in Oakland, and the crowd gasped, and his teammates shook their heads.

And then, two hours later, the game started.

Playoff rosters are due Friday. Murray has been on the injured list since March 7, since the Lakers decided they would have a look at rookie Jannero Pargo.

It's not what he expected when he was traded from Toronto to his hometown last draft day, to say the least.

By all indications, the Lakers will take their current 12 into the playoffs, which would leave Murray out.

"Am I anxious about it? Yeah," he said Wednesday, between jumpers. "It means the world to me to be on the playoff roster."

Eight years ago, after being traded mid-season from Portland to Houston, the Rockets won the NBA championship. He was not on that playoff roster.

"That's why this means so much to me," he said.

Coach Phil Jackson declined to discuss specifics of the decision.

"I wouldn't divulge that because I don't think that's fair to anybody at this time," he said. "We'll sit down and calculate that. Pargo's playing very well."

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Jackson prefers not to start Robert Horry at power forward, even when the matchups beg for it.

So, expect lots of Mark Madsen, as divinely told.

"I'm letting the Lord lead me in an inspirational way to determine how I'm going to play these guys," Jackson said. "Mark has been praying a lot. He's a good Mormon. He spends a lot of time in prayer meetings during the week, so his prayers have been answered.

"I'm a pretty fickly person at this time. Whatever you do for me tonight is probably what's going to happen. But, Mark gives us an aggressive defender. We happen to need that. Samaki [Walker] gives us a rebounder and can block some shots. Mark has that extra added effort that this first unit needs to recover defensively and get some second opportunities."

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