Fox Doesn’t Hate Playing This Role

Times Staff Writer

There is everyday derision and there is Arco Arena derision, which tends toward loud, tinny and aggressive, and into it tonight goes Rick Fox, who very possibly has ascended to most-hated Laker in a Laker-hating town.

The folks of Sacramento take their grudges seriously, so Coach Phil Jackson will get his cowbells and Shaquille O’Neal will get his fat jokes and Kobe Bryant will get another whiff of his tainted cheeseburger.

But the ultra-competitive, occasionally over-the-top Fox has at least joined them with the “Hey-they-got-our-rings” set. It’s becoming hard to keep track of the villains, though here one may assume they’re wearing purple and gold.


It was Fox who rode the Kings from one end of the Western Conference finals to the other last spring, claiming they had neither the game nor the experience to beat the Lakers. Fox who tore off his jersey and flexed menacingly on his way off the Arco floor after the Lakers’ Game 7 overtime victory. Fox who tangled with Doug Christie in an October exhibition, then ambushed him in the Staples Center tunnel. Fox who, upon the Kings’ return to Los Angeles at Christmas, snubbed them all at center court, where players traditionally touch fists before the opening tip.

“I think if there was a long list of Lakers hated by the Kings’ fans and players, I definitely am near the top,” Fox said, grinning. “I’ve definitely done something to climb the ladder there.”

He added that if his hunting down of Christie in October had turned the fans on him, taking the heat off former arch-villains Jackson, O’Neal and Bryant, “then so be it.”

“It should be pretty humorous, though,” he said. “And I’ve always been able to laugh at myself.”


Not only are the Kings without injured forward Chris Webber, guard Bobby Jackson and center Scot Pollard, they played Thursday night in Seattle. So, while the Lakers took in a comedy show, courtesy of Jackson, in Sacramento, the Kings defeated the SuperSonics, flew late, and now will play again.

The Lakers will be back at Arco for the first time since Game 7, site of one of the great victories in franchise history, but Jackson put no significance in that. The Lakers are 20-23, playing for playoff qualification every night.


“We’re pretty much by that kind of thing,” Jackson said. “We’re thinking about this year’s playoffs.

“We just have to be ready to play every game. We have to play a different level all the time now.... We’re still trying to find a pace or a level in which we can start playing consistent basketball. We haven’t shown the ability since Shaquille’s been back to elevate our game to the point where we’re really confident. We’re still developing that feeling, particularly on the road.... So, every game to us is trying to find where we were at one time a year ago, so we can keep getting that kind of momentum.”


Devean George, whose injuries and uneven confidence made a disaster of the first three months of his four-year, $18.5-million contract, has made slight progress lately.

He had eight rebounds in 21 minutes in Wednesday’s victory at Phoenix, made a fourth-quarter three-pointer that kept the Lakers close to the New Jersey Nets last Friday, and scored 10 points in 23 minutes in a loss to Golden State on Jan. 22.

“I’ve been after him now to come along and show his mettle,” Jackson said.


The Lakers held a voluntary workout Thursday. Eight players attended. Jackson said he did not believe Bryant, who has a sore right wrist, or Robert Horry, who has a sore right hand, would be limited tonight.


at Sacramento, 7:30

Channel 9, ESPN

Site -- Arco Arena.

Radio -- KLAC (570), KWKW (1330), KIRN (670).

Records -- Lakers 20-23, Kings 33-14.

Record vs. Kings -- 0-1.

Update -- The Lakers have eliminated the Kings from the playoffs the last three seasons and have won the past three regular-season series, three games to one. The Kings won at Staples on Christmas Day, 105-91. Peja Stojakovic, named Thursday to replace Webber in the All-Star game, scored 26 points as the Kings pulled away in the third quarter and held off the Lakers in the fourth. Bryant and O’Neal each scored 27 points.