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He Gives Kobe the Big Needle From Seattle

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At least he will be remembered now.

Having left the Lakers after an uneventful rookie season--six minutes a game in 24 appearances--Ruben Patterson signed a three-year contract with the Seattle SuperSonics, departing amid boasts about how he routinely shut down Kobe Bryant in practice.

A player would normally catch heat for such comments, but it’s no certainty in this case, since Patterson had trouble catching anything. One writer nicknamed him “Ruben Paddlehands.”

“Honestly, I dominated Kobe and everybody,” Patterson told the Seattle Times after signing the free-agent deal.

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“They called me ‘the Kobe stopper.’ He hated when I guarded him, and he knows it to this day.”

So why didn’t Patterson play more?

Politics,” he said. “You have Kobe, $70 million--you know they are going to play him. Then you have Glen Rice, who’s been in the league a while. Then you’ve got Rick Fox. I was just a rookie.”

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Ruben on a roll: “I can’t wait,” he said of the first game against the Lakers, Nov. 30. “I’m going to tell G.P. [Gary Payton], Vin Baker, all those guys, ‘That game, I’m all out.’ Because I just want to beat [Bryant] so bad. I told him personally: ‘If I’m ever on another team, I’m going to go against you and I’m going to kill you.’ Exact words.

“But Kobe is a good player. I’m not going to knock him.”

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Trivia time: Who holds the Pacific 10 football record for most passes thrown in a career, most completed, most had intercepted and most times involved in a play either by run or pass?

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Shell shocked: Wade Boggs, the newest member of the 3,000-hit club, got the first 2,098 of them with the Red Sox. In case he, or anyone, has forgotten.

“Wade doesn’t talk much about Boston anymore,” Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe reports. “He’s like those World War II veterans who made it home, then never spoke of the horrors of combat.”

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Nick the Quick (Release): Nick Van Exel recently signed a seven-year contract with the Denver Nuggets, a deal that reportedly will pay him $60 million to $80 million, depending on incentives--after a season in which he shot 39.8% overall, 30.8% on three-pointers.

He said he wants to improve his accuracy. He also said he wants to shoot less. Van Exel was second in shots only to Antonio McDyess on the Nuggets in 1999 and took nearly 300 more than No. 3 on the team, Chauncey Billups.

“I hope I don’t have to shoot the ball as much,” Van Exel told the Denver Post. “But if it comes down to it, you guys know I’m not shy.”

We know, we know.

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Trivia answer: Erik Wilhelm, who played at Oregon State from 1985-88.

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And finally: Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News, on the Dallas Mavericks using a second-round draft pick on Wang Zhizhi of China: “That’s pronounced Wong Zhu-Zhu, which translates [rather unfortunately] to “Huge Stiff Who Dunks on Short Reformed Maoists.”

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