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Jackson Has Answer for Shaq

Times Staff Writer

Shaquille O’Neal can request the ball all he wants, and Coach Phil Jackson understands what O’Neal is getting at, but the Laker offense, he said, is not as simple as that.

“All I have to do is show him tape when he misses five shots in a row and bunnies within four feet of the hoop and then misses all his free throws,” Jackson said Tuesday night, “for him to realize that, hey, somebody else has to be available, too. It’s a great statement that Shaq makes, but it’s not true.

“Shaq, you know, made a statement. We agree he should touch the ball and it creates double teams and creates offense for our basketball team. But the biggest key, he does not have to score for us to win.”

The triangle is better when it runs through O’Neal, one of the great passing centers in history, and that, usually, is O’Neal’s point.

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“We want him to be a prime mover,” Jackson said. “Ultimately, our offense has to reflect how we get the ball into Shaq.

“Some of it is Shaq’s fault. Some of it is his teammates’ fault. Some of it is the pressure defense Minnesota is running, which is creating open-floor situations we didn’t handle as well as we should. Now, the time has come. We adjusted to their pressure defense and we were the team with 10 turnovers [in Game 4], controlled the ball the last game. Now we have to step up and hit some shots.”

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Rick Fox can expect to recover from foot surgery in time for training camp, team physician Steve Lombardo said Tuesday night.

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Fox, who tore a tendon in his foot early in Game 4, has not yet chosen a date or a surgeon, though he said Monday he hoped to have it done quickly, so he can get on with rehabilitation.

“It’s not that common,” Lombardo said. “It needs to have a repair of some form. I say ‘some form’ because in certain conditions if you go in there you can’t repair them, and you have to improvise.”

Still, Lombardo said, “I would expect him to be ready for next year.”

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Kobe Bryant was named officially to the U.S. basketball team, which will play in this summer’s qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico and, presumably, the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Allen Iverson and Jermaine O’Neal also were added to the team, already stocked with NBA players Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, Mike Bibby, Karl Malone and Jason Kidd. Larry Brown will coach the team.


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