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GAME 1: CELTICS 98, LAKERS 88 : T.J. SIMERS

Cassell adds some action to his words

June 06, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

BOSTON -- If this continues to go his way, he will have just as many championship rings as Kobe Bryant, overcoming what had to seem a life-time sentence with the Clippers.

Sam Cassell began the season with the NBA's doormat only to end up playing for the Celtics in the Finals, in his own way pulling a Bryant and demanding to go where he might have a chance to win it all.

"Cost me a couple of hundred thousand dollars," Cassell said, "but it was worth it."

Cassell pushed to buy out the remaining year of his contract with the Clippers, the Clippers having nothing more to play for and so saving more than $800,000 by letting him go.

"We were 4-0 at one time," joked Cassell, talking about the only games he can remember this year that mattered while playing in L.A.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, June 07, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Lakers: In Friday's NBA Finals section, a photograph of Lakers Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher going through a security checkpoint was incorrectly credited to T.J. Simers. The picture was taken by Times staff photographer Wally Skalij.

Now every game, and sometimes every play matters -- Cassell getting the chance to maybe end his career with a third NBA title, the first two coming in his first two years in the league with Houston. There were also stops in Phoenix, Dallas, New Jersey, Milwaukee and Minnesota.

"I wouldn't say I'm the luckiest guy in the world; I'd be that if I was winning $130 million in the lottery," he said. "Then I wouldn't have to be here doing this."

Cassell, 38 and still wanting to play one more year despite an offer from Boston Coach Doc Rivers to join his staff next season, had been playing poorly in the playoffs. He made only 24% of his shots against Cleveland, 23% against Detroit, but then made his first three-point shot over Derek Fisher, who was all over him.

"We needed a lift," said Cassell, who finished with eight points on four-for-nine shooting. "I know I can shoot it, but we have the Big Three who do the scoring for us, so it's tough to get a shot. When you do, you've got to be ready."

Rivers said, "I thought we needed his offense in the first half, and he obviously made a big shot in the second half. But I got on him once for taking a quick shot out of time out."

Coaches are always getting on Cassell, and he's usually got something to say in return.

But Cassell probably deserves the most credit for convincing the Clippers they could win and getting as far as the Western Conference semifinals a few years back, which makes him somewhat of a miracle worker.

And although a reserve now, he remains the life of the locker room -- loud, challenging and over-the-top confident in his own abilities.

"Don't start any trouble," he warned when noticing a familiar face in the media and also probably remembering he owes $1,000 to Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA for missing most of his three-pointers while with the Clippers.

"I'll pay, I'll pay," he said, and so will the Lakers if Cassell's shooting performance in this series ends up matching his own belief in his skills.

AS BETS go, it's a pretty weak one, the governor from Massachusetts donating fresh seafood to a charity of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's choice if the Lakers won Game 1, and Arnold delivering California-grown food and wine to a Boston charity if the Celtics won.

Why not make it more interesting. If the Lakers lose, Red Sox fan Frank McCourt returns to Boston for the next couple of years to eat all the seafood he wants, but if the Celtics win, McCourt gets sent to Boston for the next couple of years or so with all the home-grown California food and wine he needs. It's a win-win.

THE FOLKS here have a real L.A. fetish. The fans in San Antonio chant "Go Spurs Go," but here it's all about beating L.A. and Jack Nicholson.

"Hey Jack, we're back," read one T-shirt along with Nicholson's terrorizing grin from "The Shining."

"L.A. can't handle the truth," read another with Nicholson's mug from "A Few Good Men."

A moment before tip-off, they showed a scene from "Rudy" with Dan Devine, who never inspired anyone, telling his Notre Dame team, "No one comes into our house and pushes us around."

THE NHL enjoyed its most watched Game 6 since the league returned to national TV in 1995, NBC boasting the game beat ABC and CBS in all key demographics for the 10 p.m. hour.

The hockey beat out "Wife Swap" and "The Price is Right Million Dollar Spectacular" in the 9 p.m. hour, and then "Men in Trees" and a rerun of "CSI: NY" at 10. Impressive.

CONGRATS to Eric Sondheimer who was selected by the California Prep Sports Writers Assn. as the best columnist in papers of circulation 100,000 and above for the second straight year. They are already signing eighth-graders to college basketball scholarships. If they want to start inking first-graders, Sondheimer has a list ready of prospects.

I WAS watching ESPN when the Dodgers announced their first-round draft choice. The commentators explained that the team announces the name of their choice and the team's desire of what position that player might play -- since a number of the players compete at several positions.

Commissioner Bud Selig announced the Dodgers took a third baseman, and then later in the day the Dodgers put out a news release indicating they had taken a pitcher.

Who knows what they're talking about? Selig or the Dodgers? Tough choice isn't it?

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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