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Campbell Joins Lakers, for Now

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Elden Campbell joined his Laker teammates at Wednesday’s workouts, acknowledging both his preference to remain in Los Angeles and the likelihood that he would be better off elsewhere.

Campbell, expected to be traded to a team that would play him at center, bypassed the first two days of these informal workouts at L.A. Southwest College.

He showed up Wednesday looking relatively fit, and, as is his nature, remained unemotional about the unusual circumstances.

“I’d like to stay,” said Campbell, who has spent all of his eight NBA seasons with the Lakers and was born and grew up in the area. “But, you know, it might be better off [to be traded].

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“Depends on what happens. It could be that another situation is better. But this is home for me. I like it here. I would prefer to be here. But it’s a business.”

Campbell, who indicated he would join the Lakers at training camp next week if he still is a Laker, said he wasn’t angry or frustrated, pointing out that he has been the subject of trade rumors almost every season.

After improving his scoring average in each of his first seven seasons--and signing a seven-year $49-million contract--Campbell lost his starting spot at power forward to Robert Horry last season when it was clear he wasn’t comfortable sharing the floor with Shaquille O’Neal.

But when O’Neal was sidelined because of an abdominal-muscle injury, Campbell became the starting center and averaged 17.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in 15 games.

“I would prefer to start, I really would,” Campbell said. “I thought I should’ve started last year. I didn’t feel anybody took my spot from me last year, but it didn’t happen like that . . .

"[The situation] started the year before. I mean, I had career numbers, but still, I guess that wasn’t good enough. . . . I’m just ready for whatever, that’s all.”

Laker point guard Derek Fisher said he was glad to see Campbell join the workouts, and said it was important that no one treat Campbell as an outsider.

“Even though we may be hearing rumors about what’s been happening as far as he’s concerned, I feel it’s our responsibility as teammates--we still are his teammates--to treat him with the same amount of respect, never make him feel like he’s being overlooked or he’s an outcast.”

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But, Fisher said, knowing how Campbell has played when he has been a featured part of the Laker offense, it might be better for all sides if Campbell is traded to a team that will use him more prominently.

“I do think he would really flourish on another team,” Fisher said, “in a situation where he gets consistent touches and people on the team look at him as a go-to guy as far as the big men are concerned . . .

“I think we’ve all seen flashes of brilliance. When Shaquille has been out of the lineup, Elden has carried us at times.”

Reserve forward Corie Blount said of Campbell: “I think he’s kind of probably wanting a change, if that’s what they want to do.

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“I think Elden’s a franchise player if he goes somewhere else. He’s proven it. . . . You know, he’s definitely a center. Every time he got that starting spot, he’s definitely produced. That’s what they go on--get your chance and be able to produce.”

Laker Notes

With Wednesday’s arrival of Campbell and forward Mario Bennett, the only players missing from the informal conditioning workouts were draft choices Sam Jacobson and Ruben Patterson, who are heading directly from their homes in the Midwest to the NBA rookie orientation meetings starting today in Virginia. Second-round pick Tyronn Lue, who has been at Southwest College every day, also will be at the orientation. . . . For the second consecutive day, the Lakers played a series of full-court five-on-five games, and Wednesday, according to all indications, the team with Shaquille O’Neal won every game.


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