NEW ORLEANS — In the interest of levity, wrapped in gentle prodding, Phil Jackson gathered his players during Wednesday morning's shoot-around and produced a copy of the local paper.
From an article detailing former Louisiana State Coach Dale Brown's relationship with Shaquille O'Neal, Jackson read aloud a passage from the Times-Picayune.
"Brown will never forget his first conversation with his new recruit," Jackson read, "who told him, 'Coach, I'm not interested in scoring. All I want to do is play D and block shots.' "
They all laughed.
The Lakers await O'Neal's full game, which many seasons comes with big rebound numbers and shot-altering defense.
On Sunday, O'Neal had said that he's playing at about three-quarters of full capacity, still gaining on his foot surgery of four months ago, particularly in regard to conditioning, and took four rebounds in 34 minutes.
O'Neal had 11 rebounds to go with 23 points Wednesday in a 90-82 victory over the Hornets.
"He makes steps," Jackson said. "A lot of times he makes a great step and you anticipate that's where he can play now, and he can't keep it at that level."
Robert Horry, creaky for the first two months, was fluid for most of his 30 minutes Wednesday, when he was the only player to be on the floor for the entire fourth quarter.
As part of the 13-3 run that finished the Hornets over the last seven minutes, Horry blocked point-blank shots by Jamaal Magloire and P.J. Brown.
Of the block against Brown, Horry said, "I was going to foul him, but he put it right in my face. So I got a clean block."
The Lakers stayed the extra night in New Orleans, their hotel a couple of blocks from the beads and boas and verandas.
"I don't think there's anything ill about New Orleans at all," Jackson said. "It's hard not to have a good time in New Orleans."