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Bryant, Shaw Both Want to Guard Hudson

Times Staff Writer

In the throes of yet another postseason series in which the point guard has carried much of the opposing offense, Kobe Bryant volunteered late Sunday afternoon to defend Troy Hudson.

Instead, Brian Shaw, seeing the need to keep Bryant fresh on offense, insisted on the responsibility. And, while it wasn’t only Shaw who guarded Hudson at the end, Hudson did not score in the fourth quarter and the Lakers evened the series, two games apiece.

Timberwolf Coach Flip Saunders said he’s been waiting “for three games” for Phil Jackson to order the Bryant-Hudson matchup. Hudson said there were only slight differences in being guarded by Bryant or Derek Fisher.

“He’s probably able to contest my shot better,” Hudson said of Bryant.

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When it was relayed to Bryant that Hudson had said there was “not that big of a difference,” Bryant curled his lip and said, “We’ll see. One’s All-Defense,” meaning himself.

Later, he added, “Not that big a difference? You gotta be kidding me.”

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The Laker front line gets thinner by the day it seems, a process that has combined injury, preference and circumstance to keep Rick Fox, Samaki Walker, Tracy Murray, Robert Horry and Slava Medvedenko on the bench.

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Fox is lost for the playoffs because of a torn foot tendon; Walker has played nine minutes in the series; Murray didn’t make the postseason roster; Horry, who has yet to make a three-point basket, played 31.6 seconds in the last 19 minutes of Game 4; and Medvedenko has nearly as many DNP-CDs (two) as minutes played (three).

The loss of Fox limits Jackson’s options.

“We won’t know what that does to us,” Jackson said. “We still have yet to understand it.

“Psychologically, we feel good about where we’re at, how we got here, and that we’re right back to square one, where we have to win a road game.”

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The Lakers are sure to add a free-agent power forward this summer, presumably using most or all of their mid-level exception -- about $4.7 million. Among the possibilities: P.J. Brown, Juwan Howard, Karl Malone, Dale Davis and, if he frees himself from Sacramento, Keon Clark.

On his weekly radio show, Jackson said he’d thought about Malone, and suggested he’d spoken of him with team owner Jerry Buss.

“Do I think that Karl would be a good make for the Lakers?” Jackson said. “Obviously any player that is that good will find a way to play for a basketball club.”

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Bryant confirmed he will be among the next group of players to be selected to the U.S. Olympic qualifying team. USA Basketball had hoped to announce him with its first players, but Bryant was slow in returning required paperwork.... Shaquille O’Neal’s flagrant foul, called in Game 4 when he fouled Kendall Gill, has been rescinded.


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