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There’s No Way He Can Take This Sitting Down

I’m pretty sure we’d all like our bosses to work harder, maybe even as hard as we do, which would certainly cut into the golf games of some people I know.

But one of the things that separates Shaquille O’Neal from you and me -- in addition to about $20 million a year -- is the ability to come right out in the newspaper and criticize his do-nothing boss, and not worry about getting fired.

Do you think I could call sports editor Bill Dwyre and editor John Carroll do-nothing bosses and get away with it? I wouldn’t think of calling Carroll that.

Shaq can afford to pop off. He said he’s tired of seeing his immediate supervisor, Phil Jackson, just sitting around like an editor and doing nothing. He said he’d like to see him get off the bench and work harder like other coaches.

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For more than two years I’ve been writing the same thing, although I’ve made allowances because he’s dating his boss’ daughter and had to be on call to make goo-goo eyes at Jeanie whenever she took her usual seat opposite the Laker bench.

In fact, to get a better idea of what Jackson does, I’ve tried sitting in his seat before a game watching the Laker Girls practice their routines at the opposite end of the court, and I’m telling you I’ve probably done this 50 times, and every time I’ve stood to get a better look at the Laker Girls I’ve found myself paying no attention whatsoever to the empty seat Jeanie would occupy later.

So I can see why he remains seated, still dating and all and facing straight ahead in a Zen-like trance across the court at Jeanie. The simple solution, of course, would be for Phil to just get married, and then he’d no longer have to pay Jeanie so much attention.

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I’D THINK having a girlfriend at work would be pretty distracting -- in my case it would, what with the wife and all -- but you know how coaches are about trying to get rid of distractions, so this tells me there is something else at work here.

Phil has nine coaching rings, and while you and I might not think it’s a big deal to give one away, maybe this is all about getting another one. It’s pretty well accepted in the NBA that Phil is at his very best when he does nothing, which would explain why he only coaches teams that employ either Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen or Shaq & Kobe.

For the last three years Phil has just sat there on the Laker bench, I presume dreaming of Jeanie -- a nice balance to Jack Nicholson sitting there dreaming of who knows what on the other end of the court -- and the Lakers have won three titles. By the way, if anyone should get out of their seat and go after the refs, it should be Jack, a.k.a. Jack Torrance in “The Shining.” I believe that would get their attention.

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A WEEK ago, Phil was talking to reporters -- OK, speaking from on high to reporters -- and telling them how he had hoped to push the team into the fourth- or fifth-seeded position for the playoffs, but that probably wasn’t going to happen now.

At the time I told him I was hoping the team would enter the playoffs seeded No. 8. “It’d make a better story -- coming from way back to win it all,” I told him. “I’d think there’d also be another book in it for you.”

Phil, already an author several times over, thought about that for a second, and said, “Books are good,” with a grin.

Now I’m wondering if that explains why the Lakers are playing like a calculated team that wants to finish eighth in the Western Conference.

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A few more losses and the Lakers will be right there, bringing up the rear, which would pit them against center-less Dallas in the first round -- probably giving them their best chance to push forward in the playoffs. Sure, they’ll have to play Sacramento or San Antonio, but an eighth-place finish would let them watch the Spurs and Kings play each other, before taking on the survivors.

Just a wild, crazy thought: What if Shaq thought of this before anyone else -- delaying foot surgery, knowing the Lakers would struggle without him, and then rally upon his return to pull off one of the great comebacks in sports history?

If so, that would explain why he’s making such a fuss about Phil getting off the bench: The Lakers are presently on course to finish sixth or seventh, and probably need something extraordinary to happen to fall to eighth. I would think Phil getting off the bench and doing some coaching would be considered extraordinary.

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HE’S SUCH a nice guy, and you know where they finish, so I guess that makes Dennis Johnson the perfect choice to coach the Clippers.

Now I happen to think Alvin Gentry did a great job before injuries and immature players took him down, but the job is Johnson’s now, and the L.A.-raised youngster who went on to play at Pepperdine will have almost no chance to succeed. Just in case he didn’t know that, I stopped by before Monday’s game to tell him.

I walked into the office of the Clippers’ head coach and found all the pictures removed from the wall -- the hooks left behind and awaiting the next victim’s artwork. Johnson sat behind the desk, still optimistic, despite an audition that has a 3-9 start after Monday’s loss to Houston.

“Is there a way out of this that might give me the chance to come back next year?” Johnson asked himself. “I believe so, but I’m still searching. I know wins are the best way to do that. And I know this team is good enough [to get fans excited and win]. I hope to make that happen with the games remaining this season.”

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I wouldn’t start hanging any pictures.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.


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