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Lakers seem uninterested participants

November 06, 2008|MARK HEISLER | Heisler is a Times staff writer.

Oh, that rivalry.

If winning so-called "City Series" games has no special meaning for the Lakers, losing them definitely ruins their evening, a possibility that loomed late in Wednesday night's game before the undefeated, unimpressive lords of the West outlasted the lowly, winless Clippers, 106-88.

Once more the Clippers, whose logo should be crossed crutches over a portrait of Donald T. Sterling or, if he's busy, Alfred E. Neuman, ran out of front-line players, as their front-line players run out of gas.

In the (only) good news for the Clippers, they're finally putting their projected starters on the court, but Baron Davis and Marcus Camby still have doctor-imposed limitations on their minutes and wear down, anyway.

The Clippers are now where the Lakers were Sept. 29 when training camp opened, give or take a couple of superstars.

Camby made his first appearance in a Clippers uniform Monday against Utah. Unfortunately, after all that time off, he wasn't tack sharp on reporting in, neglecting to tuck his Clippers jersey into his Clippers shorts and getting sent back to the sideline by referee Joey Crawford with a delay-of-game penalty. Said Coach Mike Dunleavy before Wednesday night's game: "I was just happy he had pants."

That was the first time Dunleavy had ever gotten Davis, Camby, Al Thornton, Chris Kaman and Cuttino Mobley on the court this season, or preseason.

"They should get it," said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson before the game. "They'll get it. Unfortunately, the season started a little early for them.

"It takes a month of playing, basically [to get into shape.] Two or three weeks, at least."

The Lakers have no such problems, with all their size, talent, youth and depth.

The Lakers' problem is bringing it every night. As in Saturday's unimpressive win in Denver, the game appeared to mean more to the other team.

For all the fanciful talk about winning 70 games . . . or 75 . . . or 80, Jackson once had real-life teams in Chicago that went 72-10 and 69-13 and did it back to back.

After his Bulls set the record with 72 wins, with no intention of extending them the following season, Jackson saw them win 69, which tied the 1971-72 Lakers for the second-best record.

Not that the young Lakers remind Jackson of those hard-driving Bulls yet.

"I don't know if we have the same ruggedness that we had, that was brought to the team by Dennis Rodman," Jackson said. "He had that character where he was going to . . . lay his body on the line, dying to get the ball back, dying to defend.

"It just wasn't in their makeup to lighten up. They wanted to work. They liked to work. . . . This team is learning how to do that every-night action it takes in the NBA to win."

It takes a lot more than the Lakers put into the game that followed.

Dunleavy couldn't even name his starters until trainer Jasen Powell relayed the doctor's orders on how long Camby could play. Camby wound up starting but went only 15 minutes, in foul trouble.

Nevertheless, the Clippers led with, 81-79, with 7 minutes 29 seconds left when Davis was called for his fifth foul, obliging Dunleavy to take him out.

By the time Davis got back in, 1:18 later, the Lakers led, 87-81, and it only got worse for the Clippers.

The Clippers are also in the midst of a schedule crunch. This was their second game against the Lakers in the eight days since the season started.

The Lakers are off until Sunday. In an upset, they were the ones who looked as if they needed the break.


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