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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

This should be quite a trip for the Lakers

With games at New York and Boston this week, there will be no shortage of news, real or imagined.

February 01, 2009|MARK HEISLER

And now, the Wild, Wild East?

Western Conference teams used to go East for winter vacations, but the sun doesn't shine on the same dog, er, conference's tail every day.

For the first eight years of this millennium, the West ruled, peaking in the 2002-03 season when it went 250-170 against the East.

Despite a renaissance in the East, or at least in Boston, the West prevailed last season, 258-192.

Now, in the midst of a real renaissance, the East started the weekend 146-122 this season against the West.

With the Lakers headed that way, it won't be as much fun as, say, the 2006 game in Boston, where fans in gold Lakers jerseys chanted "MVP" for Kobe Bryant.

This trip, anyone showing up in a gold jersey could have his number retired, with him in it.

Luckily, with my insight that borders on clairvoyance, I know how this trip will go.

Well, possibly except for a detail here or there.

New York -- Situation normal: Hysteria rules.

The Knicks' writers are now tiring after a month of Eddy Curry revelations. That's a lot of ink for a guy who played one game.

Of course, Stephon Marbury hasn't played any, but that "bombshell" is the exclusive property of the New York Post.

Last week Marbury told the Post he had a "verbal commitment" from the Celtics, a scoop Marc Berman of the Post and I both claim.

I wrote months ago that Marbury would wind up there. Berman says he had it last summer and he is, indisputably, closer to the horse's . . . er, mouth.

Unfortunately, Marbury can't go anywhere until he settles his contract with the Knicks

He is sticking to his guns, offering to take $20.8 million of his $21.8 million, and not a penny less. Knicks President Donnie Walsh is sticking to his $17-million offer.

"It's kids' games," Marbury told the Post last week. "Like Barack Obama said, let's put away those childish acts."

Disappointingly, the White House wouldn't take up Marbury's cause, but the president must be gratified to hear his message of reconciliation resonate.

Marbury has an easy way out -- well, it would be for anyone else: Take the $17 million and go on with his life, even if he has to forsake martyrdom.

The Lakers don't have to worry about Marbury, whom they see at home these days.

The Gotham press corps is another matter.

The rush to ask the latest superstar if he would come in 2010 reached folk movement proportions with LeBron James, delighting James, but infuriating the rest of Cleveland's traveling party.

Now, h-e-e-e-r-e's Kobe!

If the Lakers' beat writers asked Bryant something that speculative and potentially controversial, Bryant would look at them as if they were aliens.

In New York, he'll answer, boyishly, "You never say never."

With the Knicks reduced to a laughingstock in recent years, there's little mention of the wonders Walsh and Coach Mike D'Antoni have worked, inheriting a 23-59 team, exiling Marbury, unloading their No. 1-2 scorers, Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, and going 21-25.

The Lakers will beat them anyway, 199-198.

Boston -- The Celtics don't cast the shadow they did before the Christmas game when the Lakers started them down the road to oblivion.

On the other hand, a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion.

It's not surprising the Celtics turned it around so dramatically, winning their last 10.

It is surprising they did it with the personnel on hand. Their bench has actually helped, led by Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who didn't look like he could contribute much more than layups, physical defense and the threat of falling on somebody.

Of course, they can still use help -- like Marbury. Talented as he is clueless, he would be on his best behavior, trying to get a new contract.

Not that Celtics GM Danny Ainge -- the one who would have made any "verbal agreement" -- wanted it announced in the New York Post, before Marbury got his buyout and Ainge had a chance to talk to his players, especially Kevin Garnett.

Nor, after insisting for months they have confidence in their reserves, was it opportune to find out they just called Reggie Miller, who's now 43.

Coach Doc Rivers treated the stories like a joke.

"We love it all," Rivers said. "I mean, we're going to call Magic, Larry and Michael next, Cooz, Russell . . . "

Rivers added that the press had the wrong Miller ("I wanted Cheryl to come back, not Reggie").

Hopefully, the Lakers won't get distracted by the stories because, while the Celtics sometimes get tired, they never get distracted.

Focused as only the Celtics can be, before a crowd howling as only it can, they will beat the Lakers, 92-86, after which everyone will say, "Hopefully, we'll see them again."

Next week: The Lakers go to Cleveland, where the Lakers' beat writers will ask Bryant about James and he'll look at them as if they're aliens.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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