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[size=18:b2ecaf1f1e]LAKE SHOW NOT OVER YET [/size]
by Peter Vacsey
LOS ANGELES - Now that we've appropriately over- reacted (it's what the media and fans do best) to the fine mess the Lakers are in, it's not as if losing the first two games of a series, particularly to the defending champs, is anything out of the ordinary. Happens all the time. Just as teams down 0-2, at least the better ones, come back to deadlock matters upon returning to their own comfort station.
As stained as their glass house may be at the moment, is anyone who shouldn't be attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings on a regular basis willing to wager money they can't afford to lose the Lakers aren't good enough to win two straight at home?
Despite friction among the troops, widespread dereliction to duty, and a public outcry for Donald Rumsfeld to replace Phil Jackson, is there a coherent person out there who honestly believes the Lakers lack with it takes to regroup and re-establish their early-season dominance?
Not even San Antonio's Baseline Bums, I propose, think this hostility is more than halfway over. Only the delusional imagine the Spurs have lost the slightest respect for their disconnected opponents or fear of retribution. Presuming they've stopped sweating this one out would be your bad; the Spurs, to their credit, remain humble and edgy.
Only the majority of the media, naturally, has written off the Lakers. Which is tantamount to blowing off the Santa Ana winds.
The reality is, it's unimportant whether Shaq, Kobe, Karl Malone and Payton are on the same wavelength as long as they're on the same team and some of Jackson's fundamental precepts somehow seep through.
In spite of their nightly domestic disturbances, a degenerative defense, an offense that's been unable to crack pipe 20 points in five of eight quarters, the Spurs' ability to almost fully factor out Derek Fisher, Devean George and Kareem Rush from 3-point range, and Parker running amuck, Sotheby's has put on hold the Lakers' liquidation sale.
From where I'm perched, our little lovebirds are one victory away from reversing the prevailing perception the Lakers are doomed. And one Tim Duncan turned ankle away from converting prey to predator. (True)
* Jamaal Tinsley didn't generate so much as a dishonorable mention coming into the Pacers-Heat series. Moreover, because Indiana is so loaded, it's doubtful Thursday night's playoff-career-high 17 points will grip anybody's attention for more than passing appreciation. Still, the team's most improved player is also its most pivotal. As the temperature rises and the comp climbs, Tinsley's judgment (five assists, three turnovers) and shot making (5-of-8 from afar) will determine whether Reggie Miller's championship dream rings true or hollow.
Not that Uncle Reggie is ready to turn down the covers on his career. Not as long as he's contributing to success, go to sleep on it. With a little help from his whistle-while-they-work friends and Fred Jones, he limited Eddie Jones to four points, three shots, one field goal and one sneaky undercut that caused Miller to land awkwardly and hurt his knee. Prior to that, Reggie was looking exceptionally frisky. It's amazing how quickly he's capable of retreating on defense without it impairing his talent to turn his head and voice displeasure with a trailing official.
T'wolves assistant Randy Wittman, a former Hawks player and Cavaliers head coach, is the leading candidate to replace Terry Stotts in Atlanta, say sources . . . Jim O'Brien has invited all but one of his five Celtics assistants to join him in Philly, the notable exception being John Carroll. For some unknown reason to me, their relationship became strained after Carroll was promoted by Danny Ainge to take over temporarily when O'Brien left . . . Butch van Breda Kolff has a better chance succeeding Tim Floyd in New Orleans than Hornets assistant Jan van Breda Kolff.
Magic Johnson, who used to show up on the set prepared, is no longer informing or insightful, it's just less of the same-old, same-old even when it pertains to his Lakers. "They just have to play basketball," he proclaimed over and over again.
Clearly, Magic's too busy running his many other ventures (more power to him) to remain in the NBA loop. Naturally, nobody at the tippy top of TNT has called him out about his slippage, as if anybody is sharp enough to know the difference. It's Magic and Charles Barkley, that's more than enough for the bosses to absorb.
Magic's credibility is fading fast. The other night I actually heard him say the Spurs "are Tony Parker's team." Yeah, right, and you're Starbucks' franchise player.
Every time you think TNT's telecast can't get any worse, Stephen A. Smith opens his mouth on ESPN.
If Jermaine O'Neal was so cooperative with the media (Magic Johnson Award) how come the media was so thoroughly unsupportive of him? Hey, any ink-stained wretch or TV toadie can vote for Kevin Garnett. I had a very good reason for casting one of two first place MVP ballots for O'Neal. I'm under the influence of my Pace(r)-setting wife. I better not find out the other person is similarly motivated.
* The Nets are subletting Saddam's mud hole because, among other things, Chauncey Billups (28 points, 13 assists Friday) is doing a better impersonation of Jason Kidd than Jason Kidd; and, unable to get inside with any regularity, they've had to hoist (8-for-33 in two games) from the hinterlands.
Had Kidd known it was going to be this tough, he never would have allowed Alonzo Mourning to coerce him to re-sign.
Column castigator Frank Drucker is moderately interested to see if the Lakers can rebound from their version of Stinko de Mayo. "Oh, sure, trying to take 4-of-5 from a team that has won 17 straight may seem like a daunting task, but Shaq has overcome larger obstacles. Remember . . . he actually had people pay to see his movies."
Finally, our annual salute to moms on their day, along with this public-service reminder from Shawn Kemp: "If you're not a first-hand celebrant, be patient. I'm working as fast as I can."