United They Fell and It Was Ugly

It was not about exacting revenge for the crushing loss that came exactly one year earlier, the Lakers having either put those memories to rest or gained a certain measure of satisfaction by beating the Chicago Bulls at the Forum minus Shaquille O'Neal.

It was, however, about wasting any chance to play well in the United Center. The Lakers get but one scheduled visit to Chicago and the passion and soap-opera dramatics that follow the Bulls, and they missed the opportunity again, this time getting routed, 104-83, on Wednesday.

Wait till next year! Or until June.

"You'd like to have a better setting," Coach Del Harris said of the Lakers having to play one of the biggest regular-season games on the second night of a back-to-back. "But I don't know if it would have been any different. They kept us from playing well. It's that simple."

Not that there wasn't advance notice this would be one of those nights. The bus that was supposed to take most of the players and coaches to the arena--an earlier one brings those wanting extra work or treatment--never showed at the team hotel. They waited about 15 minutes before grabbing taxis.

"And from there," Nick Van Exel said, "it was downhill."


Michael Jordan, on whether Kobe Bryant has Michael Jordan skills:

"Certainly. He's got a lot of them. The biggest challenge he'll have is to harness what he knows and improve each day.

"That's tough. That's experience. The things Larry Bird and Magic Johnson taught me. But there's no doubt he has the skills to take over a basketball game."

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