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NBA CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES : Notes : Lakers Say Camp Riley Didn’t Lead to Injuries

Times Staff Writer

To keep his players in peak condition and maintain esprit de corps during an eight-day layoff before the start of the National Basketball Assn. championship series, Laker Coach Pat Riley held a three-day mini-camp and spiritual retreat in a remote part of Santa Barbara.

But in the aftermath of hamstring injuries suffered by Magic Johnson and Byron Scott, some may be wondering if Riley’s hard workouts--including a two-a-day session--might have contributed to the injuries.

“That’s a good question, because it’s mental now with these guys (his players),” Riley said Monday. “I mean, they work hard and a couple of guys come up lame.

“But that’s always been my policy. I never walk around on egg shells. I think conditioning and competitive spirit over eight days is what it’s about. To do anything less, you can’t.”

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Laker players half-jokingly call Riley’s practices during long playoff breaks torturous. Michael Cooper called Riley “Coach Hitler” on the eve of the team’s departure, and Mychal Thompson termed Riley’s practices in Santa Barbara “sadistic.”

But after suffering a partial hamstring tear just before the final series was to begin, Scott did not blame overwork.

“That’s not it at all,” Scott said at the time. “I was feeling great, very rested coming into the series. I was feeling in better shape than during the regular season.”

Riley said he has taken the Lakers to Santa Barbara in the past without repercussions and would do it again.

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“When we were up there in ’87, we were there for almost five days and had three double sessions,” Riley said. “We went there last year (before the start of the playoffs). Whether we took them up there or here (does not make a difference).

“I probably would have worked them harder in Los Angeles, longer in Los Angeles, than I did in Santa Barbara.”

Riley has promised unspecified adjustments for Game 4 tonight. Those figure to be regarding the Lakers’ use of a half-court trap, which Detroit exploited in Game 3 by finding open players underneath, and more playing time for rookie point guard David Rivers.

"(Rivers) is the only guy on the team that has the kind of quickness to apply pressure on them,” Riley said. “Unless you’re into the rhythm, you miss out on the rotations (on the trap) and coverage.

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“Our traps were good, but our rotations were slow. I think they had about eight uncontested shots because we did not rotate and anticipate quick enough.”

The Lakers were viewing videotape of the Pistons in the Forum locker room when Monday morning’s earthquake hit.

Thompson picks up the action: “It’s a good thing it wasn’t an 8.6 or 9.7 (on the Richter scale). We all would’ve died in the doorway. Everybody was stuck in the door to get out. It wasn’t single file. It was a mass of humanity trying to get out of the door at one time. Of course, Riles (Coach Pat Riley) stuck right in front of the TV. He wouldn’t take his eyes off those tapes. He figured he was going to go down with the building.”

The Pistons did not seem daunted by Monday’s temblor.

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“I was in my room, and the walls started shaking,” Isiah Thomas said. “Then, I finally realized it was an earthquake. I thought it was kind of cool.”

The Pistons view the Lakers’ injury situation as part of the game. Several players also said that the media and fans are focusing too much on the loss of Magic Johnson and Byron Scott and perhaps not giving the Pistons credit for taking a 3-0 lead.

“Maybe when all this is over, maybe you guys will sit back and figure out all that we have accomplished,” Thomas said. “We’ve been the best team in basketball all season long. We’re on a tremendous streak the last 50-something games (45-8).”

Most on the Lakers, however, have not used injuries as an excuse. Not yet, anyway.

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Piston forward Dennis Rodman was named in a paternity suit filed Monday in Los Angeles superior court.

Annie Bakes, 29, a former model who claims that Rodman fathered her 8-month-old daughter, is seeking $7,700 a month in child support and is claiming in a suit that she is entitled to half his earnings.

Palimony attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who represents Bakes, of Los Angeles, said his client is entitled to $1 million plus a share of money Rodman receives from the NBA Finals.

Matt Dobek, Pistons’ public relations director, said Rodman would not comment on the suit.

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