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LAKER-CLIPPER REPORT

League Rescinds Calls

January 21, 2003|Tim Brown and Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writers

The NBA on Monday rescinded two overtime decisions made by referee Monty McCutchen that helped the Houston Rockets beat the Lakers on Friday night in Houston.

A flagrant foul called against Shaquille O'Neal with 1:11 remaining was erased, as was the technical foul against Phil Jackson that followed it. The Rockets made the technical free throw, along with the two free throws for the foul against O'Neal, but committed a turnover on the possession awarded by the flagrant foul.

The Rockets began the sequence ahead, 99-98, left it leading, 102-98, and won, 108-104.

On the play, Steve Francis came off a pick and charged toward the basket, where he was met by O'Neal. The Lakers believed Francis created the contact and that O'Neal was holding his ground. McCutchen decided the foul was O'Neal's and that the contact was excessive.

Jackson argued briefly, long enough to incur the technical foul.

Told of the league's decision to overturn the calls, O'Neal clapped lightly, but did not comment otherwise.

If nothing else, O'Neal was saved a point in the NBA's system of regulating flagrant fouls. O'Neal's was a flagrant (1). More violent fouls can be worth two points. When a player accumulates six points, he is suspended for a game.

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Kobe Bryant became a Laker at 17. On Monday, he came to work a father.

Natalia Diamante Bryant was born at 3:08 p.m. Sunday to Bryant's wife, Vanessa. All three spent the night at a hospital in Newport Beach and went home Monday.

Natalia is 6 pounds 14 ounces and 19 1/2 inches.

"I'm excited to play basketball," said Bryant, a father for the first time. "But, to be honest with you, I didn't really want to leave. Just being honest.

"I did not want to take my eyes off her, her and my wife both."

Bryant said he was a bit tired -- though he's been warned by teammates that that's just begun -- and that his daughter, almost two weeks early, and his wife were healthy and happy and resting at home.

It is suddenly a hectic time for the Bryants. The family also is moving this week.

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Bryant, who often ices both knees because of tendinitis, said Monday night that he'd been sore for much of the day.

"It's just bothering me," he said. "It was hurting from the opening tip. I had to pace myself all game. If you noticed, I really couldn't get to the basket that much. I was really just cruising and picking my spots. I didn't have my speed and my explosiveness."

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An X-ray of Kareem Rush's right ring finger, injured during practice Sunday, was negative.

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Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry said he wasn't worried about a letdown after the last-place team's rousing upset victory Saturday over the Pacific Division-leading Sacramento Kings. He figures there are four times each season when he can bank on a comprehensive effort from the Clippers.

After all, the Lakers, in the words of O'Neal last season, "own this city." The Clippers are simply hoping to take whatever small victories they can against their more successful and glamorous co-tenants at Staples Center.

"Everything is at stake for us, but especially our credibility and respect in this town," Gentry said. "[Shaq] has three [NBA championships]. The only thing I want us to do is play hard and play smart. I don't care whose town it is. The only thing that's important for us is to establish some consistency and to play hard."

The Clippers went into Monday's game with three victories in their last 11 games. Before defeating the Kings, the Clippers lost by 31 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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The locker room consensus on the Clippers' new blue alternate road uniforms was favorable, although Gentry said, "I'd just as soon have ugly uniforms and win every game."

Monday's was the first of eight games this season in which the Clippers will wear the uniforms, which have "Los Angeles" written in script across the jersey rather than "Clippers."

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Clipper guard Eric Piatkowski, sidelined since Dec. 10 because of a lower abdominal strain, said he's close to being fit enough to be activated from the injured list. He refused to say when he would return to the court, but indicated it could be as soon as this week.

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