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Jackson sets priorities in exhibitions

October 16, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

The Lakers are 1-2 in exhibition play, not that Phil Jackson is worried about it.

The Lakers coach has had one winning exhibition season in eight prior attempts with the Lakers, and he didn't exactly fret when asked if this would be a winning one.

"I haven't really thought about that," he said recently.

After all, this is a time for the young ones, not the veterans, in Jackson's mind. It's a time to tinker with lineups, zing 6-foot-10 ball-handling forwards about not being in shape and see which players will round out the end of the bench.

"We always know that our game is going to take a little longer time to gel than most other teams," he said. "We do have most of our veterans back, but this is a time for us to play some younger players that we want to look it. Until the last of the exhibition games, I won't be playing the regulars in heavy minutes."

Jackson was 16-24 in exhibition games in his first tour with the Lakers and, after going 6-2 in 2005-06 in his first year back, the club went 4-4 and 3-4 the last two seasons.

Jackson, however, is not giving the team much time off, despite almost a week passing between games before the Lakers play Regal FC Barcelona on Saturday at Staples Center.

"There's a possible day off in a couple weeks -- the Sunday before the season starts," Jackson said.

The players have to comply, like it or not.

"We've had a couple long practices already," Kobe Bryant said. "It's an opportunity for Phil to see exactly what kind of combinations he wants to play."

Full roster

After further review, the Lakers are considering a roster of 15 players, the league maximum. The team initially considered carrying only 13 or 14 players, but DJ Mbenga appeared to join Josh Powell and Sun Yue as players who solidified their roster position, joining 11 others who were expected to make the team.

One last spot is remaining if the team elects to go with 15 players. Rookie second-round pick Joe Crawford currently holds an edge over Coby Karl, C.J. Giles and Brandon Heath.

If Crawford makes the team, it gives the Lakers another guard while Sasha Vujacic recovers from an avulsion fracture in the left ankle, an injury in which a small layer of bone flakes off and becomes embedded in the tissue.

Vujacic was injured the first day of training camp and might not return in time for the Oct. 28 season opener against Portland.

Greek formula?

Bryant brushed off a question about a report that a Greek billionaire would possibly pursue NBA players next summer for his team, Olympiacos.

"Don't ask me that. It's silly," Bryant said. "Next question."

Bryant said over the summer during the Beijing Olympics that he would consider taking $50 million annually to play in Europe, though he recently said he was joking when answering that question.

Former Atlanta Hawks forward-guard Josh Childress signed a three-year, $20-million contract with Olympiacos a few months ago, though it would presumably take much more to sign Bryant.

Bryant makes $21.3 million this season and has two more years left on his Lakers contract totaling $47.8 million, though he could terminate the contract after this season.


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