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After Losing Its Mountain, Orlando Now Has No Hill

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. To prove they can’t be pushed around by any player, not even a 7-foot-1, 300-pound one named Shaquille O’Neal, the people who run the Orlando Magic retain Coach Brian Hill, congratulate themselves for their moral fortitude when O’Neal leaves for Los Angeles, and then, seven months later, fire Hill.

Now Orlando has no Shaq, no Hill and no chance to win the NBA title.

The Magic would argue that there was no guarantee O’Neal would have remained in Orlando even if his unspoken but widely known wish to see Hill disappear had been granted. Los Angeles, the team, offered more money and Los Angeles, the city, offered more show business opportunities.

Perhaps. But the Lakers didn’t offer that much more money, especially when state income taxes are factored, and the movie and music industries, for better or worse, found Shaq even in central Florida.

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I’m guessing O’Neal would still be there if the Magic had fired Hill last February instead of this one.

The Magic chose instead to make a stand. But before the team’s management receives any more applause for putting players in their place, consider that, when it finally did oust Hill, one reason given was that he didn’t have rapport with the players.

Isn’t that what Shaq said?

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What would the Lakers have done if the Magic had satisfied Shaq?

Jerry West’s best alternative would have been to lure Juwan Howard from Washington to play power forward and shift Elden Campbell to center.

That failing, West would have tried to sign Dale Davis and Brian Williams.

Considering the mysterious injuries apparently preventing teams from pursuing Williams, the Lakers would have been little improved.

But who knows? Given the opportunity to play for the Lakers instead of the Clippers, perhaps Williams wouldn’t have been jumping out of airplanes.

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Coming to the aid of their Southern California neighbors, the Golden State Warriors reportedly have offered Chris Mullin to the Lakers for Eddie Jones. How kind of them. . . .

As long as deals like that are being discussed, the Lakers would like to have Karl Malone for Sean Rooks and the Clippers would like to have Grant Hill for Stanley Roberts. . . .

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Porterville, Calif., between Bakersfield and Fresno, waived a city ordinance preventing the naming of buildings for live persons so the Porterville High School gym can be dedicated Thursday to alumnus Bill Sharman. . . .

The U.S. Tennis Assn. announced Tuesday it is naming the main stadium on the U.S. Open grounds at Flushing Meadow for Arthur Ashe. . . .

After playing two subpar games last week in Arizona, USC’s flu-ridden Rodrick Rhodes was criticized by Coach Henry Bibby. “There is not time to be sick,” he said. “It’s time to suck it up.” . . .

The Los Angeles Athletic Club held a luncheon Tuesday for Bibby and UCLA Coach Steve Lavin to discuss tonight’s game between their teams at Pauley Pavilion. Bibby was a no-show. He was sick. . . .

Lavin discounted USC’s loss at Arizona last Saturday, 48 hours after the Bruins had won in Tucson. “The officials aren’t going to let Arizona lose two games in a row at Arizona,” he said. . . .

Explain this: Arizona, with two losses to UCLA, is ranked 13th in the AP poll. UCLA is 17th. . . .

Whoever was responsible for this column Tuesday was mistaken when he wrote that Michael Jordan didn’t appear in Los Angeles to receive the John Wooden Award in 1984. The Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Duke Llewellyn said Jordan was here with his parents and Coach Dean Smith. . . .

Mercer’s Bill Hodges, who announced his retirement this week, coached arguably the worst collection of players, from two through 12, ever to reach the NCAA championship game. The one exception was Larry Bird.

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That matchup in the 1979 final between Indiana State’s Bird and Michigan State’s Magic Johnson is considered a classic. It wouldn’t happen today. Johnson probably would go straight from high school to the NBA and no way would Bird stay in school for a fifth year. . . .

Sign spotted on the marquee of a sports souvenir shop en route to a Laker game: “Bury My Season at Wounded Knee.”

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While wondering which USC team will show for tonight’s game at UCLA, I was thinking: Dallas Maverick fans who bought season tickets to see the three J’s should get refunds, you’d have to pay me to watch any game involving the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sharman can still outshoot any Laker from the free-throw line.


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