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Shaq Backs Off on Criticism

Shaquille O’Neal on Friday backed off critical comments made about Rick Fox and Elden Campbell, having two days earlier turned two other members of the Laker frontcourt into the targets of his frustration over the team’s poor showings.

“I need a little bit more from Rick and Elden and guys coming off the bench,” O’Neal said after Wednesday’s loss to the New Jersey Nets. “Just play. Stop complaining and just play. [I have] no use for guys who have four and five points.”

Of the Lakers in general, the team captain added:

“All of the guys have to step their games up. . . . Teams are coming in and throwing people down. They are trying to show the world that we’re not really all-stars. If you are going to be an all-star, you need to back it up every night.”

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But Friday, before the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, O’Neal toned down his criticism.

“It ain’t nothing,” he said. “I talked to them. We’re straight.”

Said Fox: “I don’t take anything my teammates say as an attempt to embarrass me. I’ve been around Shaq long enough to know he wants what’s best for the team. It doesn’t bother me.”

This was the first time O’Neal had criticized any teammates by name. Last season, he delivered a thinly veiled shot at Campbell for not playing hard after receiving a big contract.

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The Dallas Mavericks have put Dennis Scott on the trading block, to the point that they have even given agent David Falk permission to broker a deal, and Scott would love to come to the Lakers to be reunited with his close friend and former Orlando Magic teammate O’Neal. It didn’t take more than one conversation between the teams to realize that nothing will happen.

Scott’s $2.92-million salary is a major stumbling block because it’s far less than any player the Lakers would be willing to trade, and the veteran shooter is not someone they would be willing to swap several bodies to get. There’s also the on-court reasons--the minutes at backup small forward are spoken for by Kobe Bryant.

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Western Conference coaches apparently came to their own conclusions on Nick Van Exel. The Lakers’ Del Harris said no counterparts called him to see if Van Exel’s progress, emotionally and as the point guard, had been as good as advertised. ... O’Neal has already said he doesn’t expect to be back at full strength this season. The same now goes for another Laker big man, reserve power forward Corie Blount, still bothered after spraining both ankles early. “It’s going to take the summer for him to be 100%,” Harris said.


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