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Campbell vs. Ewing? Yes! This Really Was a Classic

Among sentences I least expected to hear before Sunday at an NBA game was: “This has been a classic confrontation between two centers, Elden Campbell and Patrick Ewing.”

Yet, those were Marv Albert’s exact words on NBC in the second overtime of the Lakers’ game at the Forum against the New York Knicks.

Russell vs. Chamberlain, YES!

Abdul-Jabbar vs. Malone, YES!

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Ewing vs. Campbell?

But Albert was correct. Remember, he didn’t say it was a confrontation between two classic centers, just a classic confrontation. Ewing had 34 points, 25 rebounds and five blocked shots. Campbell had 40 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Albert’s declaration came after Campbell fouled out with 1:14 remaining in the second overtime. Tied at 121-121, they didn’t score again in a 127-121 loss.

Campbell called his sixth foul “the turning point,” proving he also could have subbed for Matt Goukas as Albert’s analyst.

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That’s the only thing Campbell didn’t do, except convert an easy layup at the end of the first overtime that would have won the game. Laker Coach Del Harris advised reporters afterward not to overemphasize that play, considering that Campbell scored 12 of the Lakers’ 18 overtime points. That included the first three-pointer of his career.

“I felt the rhythm,” Campbell said.

For the first half of this season and beyond, the question was whether Campbell the power forward felt anything except financial security after signing a seven-year, $49-million contract.

Without Shaquille O’Neal for all but a few minutes of the last eight games, however, Campbell has shifted to center and averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds.

No one believes that’s a coincidence. The test for Harris will be to find an offense, a motivational tool, a heart transplant, anything, that enables Campbell to remain as effective at power forward when O’Neal returns at center.

Harris could have the entire offseason to do that. The Lakers say Shaq will return in seven to nine weeks. He says he needs five. But if his recovery isn’t going well, it’s doubtful the Lakers will risk long-term damage to his knee by rushing him back for the playoffs.

O’Neal wasn’t even at the Forum Sunday, calling in sick with flu. Campbell has never been better. Apparently, he needs a lot of space.

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In the last eight games, the Lakers have been the NBA’s third-best free-throw shooting team. This is probably a coincidence, but Shaq went out with his first knee injury eight games ago. . . .

Irv Kaze, the KIEV radio sports show host and longtime sports executive who was raised in Brooklyn, was among the sellout crowd at the Forum Sunday. He has now seen the Knicks play in each year of their existence since the 1946-47 season. . . .

So President Bill Clinton went to a Chicago-Washington game last week. The Lakers and Knicks had Tiger Woods at courtside. . . .

Riviera regulars say they’ve never seen so many corporate hospitality tents along the fairways as there are this week for the Nissan L.A. Open. This is probably a coincidence, but Tiger is playing. . . .

Scolding the gallery for its obsession with Woods during the Australian Open, playing partner Brett Ogle said, “Tiger’s not the only one playing out here.” . . .

Suggestion for Ogle: Get used to it. . . .

Trainer Angelo Dundee will be in Arthur Johnson’s corner tonight at the Forum for the North American Boxing Federation flyweight title fight against Sammy Stewart. . . .

Thirty-three years ago Tuesday, Dundee was in the corner of young Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, when he took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston. . . .

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On this Tuesday night, the band Cassius Clay will perform at Smalls K.O. on Melrose. No word on whether Dundee will be in their corner.

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The San Francisco Giants were ready to write a check last season when promising to make Barry Bonds baseball’s highest-paid player. That’s when they thought all they had to do was beat Ken Griffey Jr.'s $8.5 million a year.

But Bonds’ Beverly Hills agent, Dennis Gilbert, waited to negotiate until after free agent Albert Belle signed--for $11 million a year. The Giants swallowed hard and last week gave Bonds a two-year extension guaranteeing him $11.45 million per in 1999 and 2000.

The Giants should look on the bright side. With the escalation of salaries, Bonds might be a bargain by then.

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While wondering why Steve Lavin is still sweating, I was thinking: UCLA at the end looked more like a Mike Krzyzewski team than Duke, Charles O’Bannon is having a better winter than brother Ed, March madness is when the Bruins are pleading to be sent to Tucson or Salt Lake City.


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