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Cassell's Status Still Uncertain

NBA PLAYOFFS: LAKERS VS. MINNESOTA | TIMBERWOLF NOTES

May 25, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

There won't be a clear answer to the daily Sam Cassell question -- will he or won't he be able to play? -- until tonight, 6:12 p.m., at Staples Center.

On one hand, Cassell's back spasms subsided enough that he took part in walk-throughs toward the end of Monday morning's practice in Minneapolis, before the Minnesota Timberwolves boarded their charter flight to Los Angeles.

On the other hand, his teammates are preparing to move on without him, secure in the knowledge they took Game 2 from the Lakers despite Cassell's lasting only 43 seconds.

The usually affable Cassell did not talk with reporters after practice, leaving teammates and Coach Flip Saunders to speculate on his behalf.

"Right now it's looking like he's not going to play, and that's the mind-set I'm taking," said Latrell Sprewell, who had 17 points and eight assists in Game 2. "If he comes out and he can give us something, that's great, but we just don't know."

Cassell had averaged 18.8 points and 5.2 assists in the playoffs before Sunday, but it appears his status will be game to game throughout the Western Conference finals.

"He looked a lot better than [on Sunday]," Saunders said after Monday's practice. "You guys can ask that same question for the next five games, and I'll give you the same answer.

"When he steps on the floor, we'll have to wait and see how he holds up when he starts playing."

*

Guard Darrick Martin, who was playing for the Harlem Globetrotters six months ago, was more than an adequate stand-in for Cassell and helped even the series at 1-1.

Martin had averaged two points and 0.8 assists in the playoffs until his 15-point, six-assist outburst in Game 2, but he said the most important part was not making any turnovers.

"That's something I pride myself on," Martin said. "My mentor, [former NBA guard] Lester Conner, and Magic Johnson told me the most important part to being a point guard in the league is to not turn the ball over.

"I talked to Lester last night, and that's the first thing he said, 'You didn't turn the ball over.' "

*

Shaq will be back, said an authority on the subject.

"If I looked at the box score and saw that Shaq had taken 10 shots, that's not going to happen every night," said Mark Madsen, who spent three seasons as one of Shaquille O'Neal's teammates with the Lakers before signing with the Timberwolves last summer.

"They're probably thinking they're going to try and get him the ball a lot more. They're going to want him to get 20 to 25 shots."

O'Neal made four of 10 shots Sunday and scored 14 points.

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