The people of Philadelphia have never been kind to Phil Jackson, though perhaps they've merely mistaken him for Santa Claus.
Asked Friday if he was looking forward to the trip east for the next three games, Jackson smiled. The Lakers fly this morning to Philadelphia and are expected to arrive in the early evening.
"I think it's been misnamed," Jackson said. "It was called the City of Brotherly Love, wasn't it? And, you know, I haven't felt a lot of that love from Philadelphians over the last few years. . . . I'm expecting a great reception when I get there--warm, brotherly, affectionate response from the fans."
Seattle SuperSonic guard Gary Payton arrived fashionably late to Game 2, and wearing a gold shirt.
"Laker gold," he confirmed.
Payton has made little secret of his fondness for Los Angeles, and there has been talk that the SuperSonics would try to deal Payton in the off-season. Payton would be an unlikely fit into the Laker payroll, however, and they have little to offer the SuperSonics in a trade.
If nothing else, the last couple of months in the Laker team room have been a joy.
The 19-game winning streak warmed the small room inside the Lakers' El Segundo training facility, whose walls are decorated by Indian totems and, among other things, a story of the mystic warrior Crazy Horse.
Mark Madsen recalled his first day in the room, an uneasy rookie among veterans of countless championships, the last only four months before. As he entered, he was told, "This is the Warrior Room. Not the war room. The Warrior Room."
He sat with the others. When it was his turn, he told them, "I'm Mark Madsen. I'm excited to be here. I'm going to work hard."
It was a place, Madsen learned, where the words were real, where the opinions were hard and true, and where the unsaid, at times, rang louder than everything else.
"The fact guys feel comfortable sharing exactly what they were feeling," Madsen said, "it really ties a knot. When that adversity comes, I think we're stronger.
"The word 'communication' gets used a lot. But we open up. We open up to each other. When we get into that room, the things that are on our minds, we express."
Whether the Lakers found peace or it found them, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant are talking again, happily, and the team was on a two-month roll of historical proportions. The gloom was replaced by the stir the NBA Finals. In the team room, suspicion has been replaced by trust, mostly.
"There's a lot of good feeling in there," Madsen said.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak, at the Chicago predraft camp this week, was in his usual seat Friday night at Staples Center, midcourt, halfway up. Kupchak and Laker scouts also in Chicago watched Game 1 together on TV.
Laker reserve Mike Penberthy, on the inactive list for the playoffs, said he would focus on quickness and agility drills this summer.
Penberthy, who can be a free agent after the season, said his preference was to return to the Lakers. Given the rule changes that will benefit shooters next season, Penberthy is expected to receive calls from other teams during the NBA's negotiation period.