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  Tue, March 30, 2004


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Organized chaos
All the distractions and squabbling just 'the norm' for Lakers

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

It's hard to fathom just what the Los Angeles Lakers have to do to impress people.

The Lakers have won eight games in a row to improve to 50-23, and last week they crushed the top two teams in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Lakers are 24-6 with their big four of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton in the lineup.

The Lakers are only two games behind the Kings for the lead in the Pacific Division, which could mean the top seed in the West. Both teams have nine games remaining, but the Lakers have only three games on the road and the Kings have only three games at home.

Still, many snooty NBA analysts stick their noses in the air and say, "Well, the Lakers really aren't playing all that well." If true, that's the biggest compliment of all.

"It's the same old story," Malone said. "When we move the basketball, we're fine. When we don't move the basketball, we're an average team. If we play defence, we're a very good team."

The Lakers aren't the greatest team in history, but the other top teams in the West are flawed, too. The Kings' defence is questionable. The T-Wolves are inexperienced. The reconfigured San Antonio Spurs, who won the championship last season, have trouble scoring. And the Dallas Mavericks can't make up their minds what they want to be.

The Lakers' depth is questionable. They squabble. The advance proceedings for Bryant's rape trial in Colorado may cause him to miss a few playoff games. And outside of Bryant, the Lakers' key components are fairly old, and injuries could be a factor in a lengthy playoff run.

But the Lakers are used to all this stuff. Asked to sum up the chaos, forward Rick Fox said: "The norm."

The critics apparently expect the Lakers to be perfect. Admittedly, they're not. But in a league awash in imperfection, realistically, is there any logical reason not to pick the Lakers to win the title?

FAST BREAKS

Kings forward Chris Webber doesn't like the fact he has been booed by the home crowd in Sacramento during a couple of poor shooting games. He missed the first 56 games of the season due to a serious knee injury and an eight-game league suspension for violating the anti-drug policy and lying to a U.S. federal grand jury about accepting illegal benefits at the University of Michigan. Had Webber been booed immediately upon his return, he would have deduced it was because of the suspension and could have accepted it. But after being cheered in his first few games, he doesn't appreciate how the fans have turned on him. "I'm very disappointed. And I'm shocked," Webber said. "You come back after 10 months and you're hurt, but if that's what the fans want to do, that's what they'll do. I'll treat every game like a road game. But (I feel) more than betrayed. It definitely changes my focus, my outlook." There have been suggestions Webber may demand a trade this summer ... Former NBAer and current TV analyst Bill Walton suggests ex-teammate Danny Ainge, the oft-criticized general manager of the Boston Celtics, should pay attention to the tactics employed by U.S. President George W. Bush and his ilk. "I've learned from all the despicable Republicans to always blame the previous administration," Walton said. "I think Danny still is digging out from the blunders of (former Celtics president and coach) Rick Pitino." ... Imagine you're Denver Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik. Your team has won more than twice as many games as it did all last season, but it's a foregone conclusion you're going to be fired and vultures like George Karl already are angling for your job. The NBA is a real cesspool sometimes.

BUZZER BEATERS

Who says Tim Duncan can't be funny? During the morning shootaround before a game last week, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced to his team that Duncan, who had a bad knee, would be coming off the bench that night for the first time in his career. A stone-faced Duncan proclaimed, "I'm not playing. I can't come off the bench. I'm a starter." Teammates and coaches alike cracked up, recognizing that Duncan was mocking Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers. Iverson recently refused to dress for a game after being told he wasn't going to start ... Free-agent-to-be Brent Barry of the SuperSonics doesn't want to leave Seattle, but he chose some odd words to communicate that fact. "It's easy to say, 'I'd like to win a championship,' but I'd like to stay here," Barry said. "I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm just a glutton for torture." ... Animal-rights organization PETA named Bryant the third-worst dressed celebrity of 2004, presumably because of a fur coat he likes to wear (Diana Ross was No. 1 and Martha Stewart was No. 2). Payton has been seen wearing fur, too, but when asked what animal it was, he replied, "Nike."









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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