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Campbell Works Bit of Magic

Exactly as absolutely nobody predicted, Elden Campbell--Elden Campbell?--came through with 34 points and 14 rebounds, in leading the Lakers to a nice-and-easy, no-sweat, 106-90 victory over those Chicago guys who lose about twice a month. Nice night, Elden . . . and without your supporting cast.

Going to see the Lakers without Shaquille O’Neal against the Bulls without Dennis Rodman is like going to see a “Star Wars” movie without either Jabba the Hutt or Yoda. It still is pretty good entertainment, but a couple of cool characters are missing.

Michael Jordan, the star of any war, was as disappointed as everybody else who had eagerly awaited Wednesday night’s jam at the Forum. “Without Shaq,” Jordan had said in the Chicago locker room beforehand, “I don’t think everyone will see the full potential of the Lakers. But we’re without Dennis, so we can say the same thing.

“If the Lakers don’t win this game, they can say it’s because Shaq didn’t play. So there’s not as much pressure on them to come out and play the type of basketball game people expect.”

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Ah, so that must be why Kobe Bryant dunked on the Bulls’ backward . . . and Nick Van Exel spoon-fed the jam . . . and Eddie Jones played like the all-star he is . . . and the Lakers won by 16, after losing to the Clippers by 22 . . . which means, of course, that the Bulls are 38 points worse than the Clippers.

Sorry, Mike.

Thanks for dropping by, and see you back here this summer?

A number of the “50 Greatest NBA Players” were present and accounted for, a few days before their all-star gala in Cleveland.

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Jerry West was in the building, as was Magic Johnson. I didn’t happen to spot Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy or Bill Sharman anywhere, but perhaps one or more sat in the crowd. Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Robert Parish came dressed in their Bull black-and-red.

O’Neal, sadly, was also in black.

He wore a suit, because a medial collateral ligament in Shaq’s right knee knocked him out of Tuesday night’s game with the Clippers, out of this game with the Bulls (their only visit to the Forum this season) and out of the all-star party as well.

“He’s really disappointed,” Shaq’s agent, Leonard Armato, said. “But he has to do his therapy twice a day. And they really discouraged him from flying.”

How disappointed was he?

Considerably, in particular because O’Neal’s mother had made arrangements to be her son’s date at the “50 Greatest Players” festivities in Cleveland.

Instead, those plans were wrecked by what Shaq called “a knick-knack injury.”

The doctor put him on Naprosyn, an anti-inflammation medicine. O’Neal joked that he “kind of overdosed” on the various prescription drugs he was given, without a positive result.

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That left it up to therapy. Rehab and rest.

Somebody asked O’Neal, “What kind of therapy are you doing?”

“Therapeutic . . . that ‘stem’ thing,” O’Neal answered, whatever that meant. “And going to strip clubs.”

Of all the games to miss, the Chicago game and the All-Star game were the ones O’Neal was looking forward to most. On the other hand, this is the best possible time to be out, with a midseason game that means little in the big picture, and with a week’s rest that--to some--beats a trip to Cleveland, any week.

Eddie Jones, who is off to Ohio, emphasized the importance of O’Neal before the game, actually coming right out and saying: “Shaq is our team. His play, his attitude, everything. . . . I think we all realize what he means to us.”

How odd, then, that Campbell, the one player O’Neal has been subtly prodding to do better, emerged in Shaq’s absence to bury the Bulls.

Chicago was 42-5. Bushed from a six-game Western swing and a game 24 hours earlier in Portland, but nevertheless, 42-5.

“You know that movie, ‘A League of Their Own?’ ” said Detroit (and former Chicago) Coach Doug Collins the other day. “That’s the Bulls. There are 28 teams in one league, and the Bulls are in the other.”

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Playing them is hard, with or without O’Neal.

“Nobody expects us to win anyway,” Shaq said.

Ah, but along came Campbell, popping up like a genie from a bottle.

“I thought it was Shaq out there,” Van Exel said. “Shaq without the dunks.”

Should the Lakers meet the Bulls for the NBA title, I sure hope Campbell can count on O’Neal for a little help.


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