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Life of Brian Gets More Interesting

May 07, 2003|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — At his current rate of career advancement, Brian Shaw, at 37, will be Laker president in, oh, a week.

In the space of four basketball games, he has gone from the end of the bench to the middle of the rotation to, probably, the starting lineup.

The Lakers lost Rick Fox to injury in the last series, Devean George to a sprained left ankle Monday night, and now every Laker between 6 feet 4 and 6-10 is being considered for small forward minutes. George will not play tonight.

It is what Shaw does. He plays three positions and has become an organizational favorite because of his uncommonly professional manner.

When Tracy Murray was left out of the rotation and eventually off the postseason roster, it was Shaw to whom he clung, because Shaw sits for weeks at a time, maintains a healthy psyche, and then plays whenever Phil Jackson summons.

Jackson said Tuesday, between Games 1 and 2, that a lineup of Shaw at shooting guard and Kobe Bryant at small forward was a possibility, and while everyone from Jackson to Bryant to Shaquille O'Neal chewed on that for the cameras, Shaw shot jumpers with Robert Horry and Derek Fisher.

"It won't be unusual," Shaw said. "It's basketball. I'll just be in at the start, instead of not at all."

He laughed.


O'Neal has little respect for players who won't stand up and guard their basket, even against him.

And while he didn't complain much after fouling out of Game 1, he hinted Tuesday that he believes David Robinson lacks the courage to defend him.

"I'm just going to continue to play my game," O'Neal said. "The flopping part is hard. I would expect certain people in their last year, that they'd just play on out.

"I don't know. Certain guys feel comfortable with playing like that to get their banners. That's them.

"I would never do that."


Among the strategic issues the Lakers considered Tuesday was getting the basketball out of Bryant's hands more, and therefore cutting his workload.

In Game 1, he often carried the ball up the floor, initiated the offense, or simply went straight at Bruce Bowen.

It wasn't all out of necessity, as Bryant found more than a few of his 38 shots away from the basic triangle tenets.

"We made him work too hard," Shaw said.


George has been playing bigger minutes and a bigger role at the end of a disappointing season, his first in a four-year, $18.5-million contract.

"I'm very, very, very frustrated," he said Tuesday. "Right now is a time we're short guys, and we're short of experienced guys.

"I know a lot of minutes were coming my way. It's the opportunity I'm missing out on."

About that time, trainer Gary Vitti wandered past and playfully scolded George.

"I told you to keep your foot elevated," he said.

"If I have to tell you again, I'm going to hit you in the ankle."

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