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Chicago JK
07-11-2003, 07:07 AM
www.latimes.com/sports/la...nes-sports
POINT & COUNTERPOINT / BILL PLASCHKE



Hollywood's Team May Find Itself With Too Many Stars
By Bill Plaschke
Times Sports Columnist

July 11, 2003

The Lakers have assembled a dream team!

Yeah, if your dream is four grown men locked in a nightmarish fight over a ball.

The Lakers are guaranteed the NBA championship!

Yeah, and a triangle has four sides.

Excuse me if the idea of Karl Malone dressing like Magic Johnson and Gary Payton pretending to be Jerry West doesn't make me want to do handstands into next June.

Requiring but a tuneup, the Lakers have installed an entirely new engine, and there are no guarantees that this highly combustible contraption will last until next June.

It will be exciting. It will be fun. It will look cool, sound powerful, the neighbor kids will flinch in admiration and fear.

But it will be dangerous. It will be egotistically flammable. It will be emotionally vulnerable.

Remember when Glen Rice's wife, Christina, made those distracting comments during the 2000 NBA Finals about her husband not getting the ball?

Imagine listening to that for seven months.

The question is not whether the rest of the league can overcome arguably the most star-filled team in professional sports history.

The question is, can these new Lakers survive themselves?

It is admirable that Payton, and now Malone, have agreed to take giant pay cuts for a chance at a championship ring. But considering both players have long since been financially set for life, let's look at a more far difficult demand on a future Hall of Famer.

Can they handle the ego cuts?

It took Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant several years to divide their turf. They used this understanding to win three championships. They are not going to change their game, nor should they change their games.

It will be up to Payton and Malone to adjust and become the sort of complementary players that the Lakers were missing last season.

Payton, who used to dominate Derek Fisher and Tyronn Lue, now must become them.

Malone, who used to overpower A.C. Green and Horace Grant, now must become them.

How is that going to work, exactly?

Payton has spent a career owning his team, running his offense, dominating his landscape.

When he has gotten angry, as he did a couple of years ago with then-Seattle coach Paul Westphal, he has simply stormed off the court screaming that, "You all can suspend me for the rest of my career!"

The SuperSonics eventually caved into Payton's demands and Westphal was fired. Payton was so appreciative, later that season he challenged new coach Nate McMillan's authority, and finally was suspended.

How is Phil Jackson going to handle that, exactly?

Then there is Karl Malone, who has been wonderful in Salt Lake City as long as he was the biggest mountain around.

Before the 2002 Winter Olympics, when it was suggested to Malone that he would carry the torch through rural Utah on its way to the caldron, he refused. He said that if he couldn't carry it into the stadium like a star, he wouldn't carry it at all.

The Olympic folks eventually caved, and Malone carried it in a prime location.

How is O'Neal going to handle that, exactly?

One man is the greatest player in SuperSonic history. The other man is the greatest player in Jazz history. And suddenly, neither will even be the greatest player in their own locker room?

The naivete with which it appears that Payton and Malone are coming to town was evident in Payton's comments earlier this week about how the ball will be shared.

"I think all four of us can score 20 points a game, I think so," he said.

And on what planet are O'Neal and Bryant going to be happy with only 20 points a game?

"I can get a lot of easy baskets, and Karl, when Shaq is getting double-teamed, he can hit that little mid-range jumper, and Kobe's going to be Kobe," Payton continued.

And in what universe is Bryant going to be the fourth option?

One of the consistencies in the Lakers' three championship seasons and one of the reasons everything fit is that no other Laker besides Bryant and O'Neal took as many as 1,000 shots.

Last season, Payton took 1,466 shots, and Malone took 1,289 shots.

As mismatched as it seemed this spring, the Lakers' room needed only a couple of end tables in the form of a big man to escort O'Neal and a guard to feed Bryant.

But, stunned that they could afford more, they hastily added a giant dresser and an oversized chest of drawers.

Come October, they may realize that there's barely room to walk.

Payton once threw a free weight at a teammate. What is he going to throw the first time Bryant won't throw him the ball?

Malone bristled earlier this season when Matt Harpring Matt Harpring! receiving increased attention for his increased scoring. How's he going to behave during those games when Rick Fox is receiving more attention?

I can learn to handle watching Malone wearing Magic's uniform and chasing Kareem's record. But the entire league will be watching to see if he can run those plays without going into the I-formation.

The most interesting, and frightening, aspect of these two veteran signings will be its effect on the team's youngest star.

O'Neal has always looked for allies in his subtle battles with Bryant. Now he will have two huge ones. If the three old guys gang up on Bryant , look for him to take his free agency next summer and run.

Maybe the Lakers think that is already a serious possibility. Maybe these two signings are simply another form of disaster preparedness.

Whatever, their main vice is no longer greed, but gluttony, which is not nearly as attractive and far more deadly.

They certainly will have the league's best players, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have the league's championship team.

If that were the case, the Portland Trail Blazers would have beaten the Lakers in 2000, and the Sacramento Kings would have beaten them in 2002.

The best players do not win. The best team wins. To fill their needs, the wide-eyed Lakers looked only at the Hall of Fame, when they could have just looked in the mirror.

DNNF
07-11-2003, 11:58 AM
This is one of the best article.

jayC
07-11-2003, 02:51 PM
I hope hes right. Isn't columnist job to find something negative and roll with it!

asola
07-12-2003, 05:11 AM
What he forgot is Phil Jackson is the coach. If someone can make that work it's him, and I wouldn't bet against it -however I'd like them to fail.

MavKikiNYC
07-12-2003, 12:34 PM
I think this article blows--the guy was clearly trying to take a contrarian position, imagine every possible negative that could result from this signing, throw it out on the table and see if anything would stick.

Regardless of whether they win a championship or not, the Lakers were forced with an immediate need to rebuild. Rick Fox is unlikely to ever come back. Horry is pretty much finished. Fischer has been slipping for the last three years. Were the Lakers going to count on Madsen and Pargo to get back to the playoffs? What they did was go out and get not only two of the best FAs available, they got two that fit THEIR NEEDS better than any others available not named Jason Kidd.

No bluster. No promises of an exciting off-season. Just some people working quietly behind the scenes to pull off two big deals, with even bigger potential. Instead of slipping further down the Western Conference standings, the Lakers can envision themselves on the ascent again. The ONLY point that the article makes of any significance is that the Lakers have mitigated against the (extremely slim) possibility that Kobe might leave in free agency.

Wannabe-GMs like Cuban or don't-wannabe GMs like Nellie could take a couple of pointers from how Kupchak and Chief Triangle conducted this recruitment.

OutletPass
07-12-2003, 12:40 PM
I do agree with kiki on this...the fact that GP and Malone gave up millions to get a ring is a VERY strong stement...when is the last time you saw big time players actually run away from millions ? These guys will have a VERY strong desire to make it work.

I just fear for the refs who work their games...this could be the all time best "whine over calls" team ever ssembled...I wouldn't want to hear it from GP/MALONE/KOBE every other minute of the games.

Truly, the greatest "stare down the officials" team ever asembled !