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Lakers Suffer Storm Damage in Portland : Pro basketball: Van Exel refuses to play after Harris loses his cool at halftime of record 129-83 defeat.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Perfect camouflage, it was not.

Perhaps sensing they needed something to steer the attention away from a 129-83 drubbing by the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, the Lakers turned on themselves and proved that the only thing worse than the most lopsided loss in franchise history was how they behaved during it.

Coach Del Harris said he went “goofy” during halftime and played interior decorator, rearranging the visitors’ locker room at Memorial Coliseum in a fit of rage.

Point guard Nick Van Exel, a team captain and allegedly a team leader, told Harris he would not play in the second half and faces a suspension or fine, something that could be decided as soon as today after discussions with Executive Vice President Jerry West and General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

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Going for their first six-game winning streak in more than three years and flowing with positives despite a series of injuries, the Lakers went in the other direction.

A record loss, a coach turning over a table and throwing water and a player quitting in mid-game easily overshadowed the return of Cedric Ceballos after he had missed the previous two games with back spasms.

Van Exel brushed past reporters after the game and ignored their questions without so much as a look. Harris said mea culpa.

“I tried to stimulate them a little bit at halftime and went a little bit crazy,” the coach said, appearing calm. “The guys didn’t react. The coach lost this one.

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“I threw things. I dumped over tables. I tried to stimulate the players and it backfired. . . . Sometimes, you’ll get a good response from players and sometimes, I guess, they’ll quit.”

According to players, Harris did not lay extra blame for the Lakers’ 65-54 halftime deficit on Van Exel or appear to have any words with the point guard he has come to praise on almost a regular basis. But as the team started to file out of the locker room for the third quarter, Harris apparently lost his cool.

“That’s exactly what it was,” said Tony Smith, who played point guard in the second half and responded with 19 points and four steals. “There’s no other words for it. He went nuts.”

Added Anthony Peeler: “He was trying to deal with some of the attitudes, and he lost it for a second. He just tipped the table and threw a couple of cups of water at everybody. He tried to wake us up and get us ready for the second half. I guess a lot of the guys weren’t focused.”

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It was at this point, after Harris’ meltdown and apparently as the Lakers were taking the court, that Van Exel bailed out on the second half.

What Van Exel witnessed from the bench was the Trail Blazers following their highest-scoring half of the season with a 14-5 run to open the third quarter for a 20-point cushion, 79-59. When it got out of hand, at 83-59 with 6:08 left, Harris called a timeout. When it really got out of hand, at 93-61 with 3:36 remaining, he called another.

Nothing could stop the bleeding--the Trail Blazers didn’t even need three quarters to break 100. Nothing could stop Clyde Drexler, who opened his first home game since going public with a trade request with the usual warm reception during introductions and then proceeded to make 10 of 15 shots en route to 31 points and eight rebounds in only 26 minutes.

The highest of the highlights was his making six of seven three-point tries.

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Ceballos made one of four shots and grabbed one rebound, played 21 minutes and said he wanted to play more. He reported no pain or stiffness or problems with mobility. He was out of sync, but at least he was out there.

Said Harris: “His pain is gone. But his timing is gone.”

That seems to be the case today for the Lakers as a whole. Positives that disappeared.

Laker Notes

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The Lakers put Sedale Threatt on the injured list before the game and are expected to sign another veteran guard, Lester Conner, to a 10-day contract today to replace him. Conner, a former Clipper who spent time last season with the Indiana Pacers, had been with Magic Johnson’s touring team this year. He also played for Del Harris in Milwaukee. . . . The Lakers’ previous franchise-worst loss also came in Portland, a 42-point setback on April 22, 1990, when coach Pat Riley held out three starters in preparation for the playoffs.


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