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Hunter, Campbell Take Pass on Sentimentality

June 06, 2004|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Two players on the Detroit Piston bench should be more recognizable to Laker fans than the rest in the NBA Finals.

Backup point guard Lindsey Hunter helped the Lakers win the NBA championship two years ago in his only season with the team. The 11-year NBA veteran is the only Piston who has won a championship ring.

Reserve center Elden Campbell played 8 1/2 seasons with the Lakers, helping them reach the NBA Finals as a rookie in 1991, playing alongside Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Byron Scott. The 14-year veteran from Inglewood Morningside High is the only other Piston who has reached the final round.

Neither has played a critical role in the Pistons' advance to the championship series for the first time since 1990, Hunter averaging about 7 1/2 minutes a game in relief of Chauncey Billups and Campbell about six minutes of spot duty. Hunter has played in all 18 Piston playoff games, Campbell in only nine.

Campbell, though, is the bulkiest Piston at 7 feet and 280 pounds and probably will play considerably against Shaquille O'Neal.

And it won't be only to hack him.

"I'm going to play him regularly," said Campbell, who was traded to the Charlotte Hornets along with Eddie Jones in the deal that brought Glen Rice to the Lakers in March 1999, a year before they started their championship run. "I'm not going to go out there just to foul somebody. You're conceding buckets.

"I'd rather go out there and play him and take a chance of having him shoot over me, rather than even shooting from the line. I don't care how bad he's shooting [from the free-throw line]; I'd rather have him shoot over me in a live-ball situation.

"Besides, fouling him puts the rest of their team in the bonus. It has its place, but I think we have enough guys that we don't have to resort to that."

Hunter started 47 games for the Lakers two seasons ago, averaging 5.8 points, but lost his starting position to Derek Fisher at midseason. His playing time dwindled after that and he was a reserve in the playoffs. He played only 11 minutes over three games in the Lakers' sweep of the New Jersey Nets in the Finals, making one of five shots and scoring two points.

He was traded not long afterward to the Toronto Raptors in a deal that brought to the Lakers the draft rights to Kareem Rush.

His brief time with the Lakers, he said, was bittersweet.

"But you know what? You take it for what it's worth," he said. "A lot of guys would give up a lot just to be in that situation, so I never really worried about that. I just enjoyed the moment, enjoyed what was going on."

But he said he was more comfortable in Detroit -- the Pistons drafted him with the 10th pick in 1993 and he played his first seven seasons for the organization -- and said it would mean more to him to win a title in the Motor City.

"Everybody knows me and it feels like home," he said. "This is definitely different, that fact that I've played here almost my whole career. And now to have a chance to play for a championship with the Pistons makes it even more special."

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