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LAKER REPORT

Winter Reducing His Role

May 17, 2003|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

Tex Winter left the Lakers' offices in El Segundo on Friday afternoon, videotapes under his arms, a lifetime of basketball perhaps behind him.

After the Lakers were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, each coach stood before the players and spoke, the first time in four years that has been done before June. The coaches reminded the players to work hard over the summer, to be careful, to come back in shape.

Winter, 81, told them he was done. Maybe. Probably. He is under contract for next season, but has requested a reduced role.

He stopped for a moment in the parking lot Friday, white hair mussed, some of his lunch on his Windbreaker, and smiled.

He said he'd probably consult for Phil Jackson and General Manager Mitch Kupchak, watch some basketball, think about the game, be around some.

"But," he said, "I won't be on the floor coaching anymore."

Later, Kupchak chuckled. Early Friday, he'd had some free-agent players in, all of them potential summer-league players. As they drilled and Kupchak watched, he looked at the row of windows above the court and saw Winter.

"I was saying to myself, 'He's going to be down here in five minutes,' " Kupchak said. "Sure enough, he walked down and he's out here coaching these kids this morning. So, it's kind of in his blood. I would expect him not to be as involved as a coach next year as he was this year."

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Samaki Walker, who fell out of Jackson's rotation early in the season and rarely played, showed the frustration of it Thursday. As the Spurs finished their Game 6 rout, Jackson told Walker to go in and play. According to witnesses, Walker initially refused.

Jackson and Walker had a brief argument. After prodding from his teammates, Walker checked in for Kobe Bryant and played the final 2:26.

After the game, Walker, who will be an unrestricted free agent, apologized to his teammates and coaches, and the incident was dismissed.

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Jackson, who does expect to return next season, also expects his coaching staff to return. Kurt Rambis probably will coach the team's summer-league team in Long Beach, as he did last year.... Laker management will conduct exit interviews with its players today, and exit physicals will be given in the next week or two.... Kupchak said he has been told to expect Rick Fox to be well into his recovery by training camp. The team will return to Honolulu for that in the fall.

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Even though it was a blowout, the Lakers' 110-82 season-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Channel 7 Thursday night averaged a 20.3 Nielsen rating in Los Angeles with a 35 share of the audience.

Those numbers mean the game was watched in 20.3% of L.A.'s 5.3-million television households and in 35% of the homes where television was being watched. The rating peaked at 26.7 at 7:15 p.m. and was still at 25.1 at game's end.

In San Antonio, the game averaged a rating/share of 33.4/45.

Nationally, the game averaged a 6.5 rating and drew 9.5-million viewers. The season finale of NBC's "Friends" on NBC was the night's most-watched show with 25.5-million viewers.

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In Sacramento, some viewers were angry about what ABC affiliate Channel 10 did Thursday. Channel 10 is the local over-the-air carrier of King games, so it had Game 6 of the King-Dallas Maverick series, which followed the Lakers game.

Channel 10 cut away from the Lakers and Spurs with about five minutes remaining, even though the second game wasn't going to start until the first had ended. The station showed the Kings and Mavericks warming up and offered pregame chatter.

"That's why Sac Town is Cow Town," said Sabrina Griffin, a Laker fan who moved to Sacramento from Tustin six years ago. "We didn't get to see Tim Duncan happy, we didn't get to see Kobe Bryant sad, we didn't get to see fans in L.A. salute their team, we didn't get to see any of that. It was really bush league."

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Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.

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