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Shaq Cool When Kobe’s Hot

Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- Shaquille O’Neal said Sunday he tries not to bother himself with Kobe Bryant’s shots anymore, those nights when Bryant feels it and isn’t afraid to show it and everyone else ends up watching.

Bryant took 29 shots -- and had 18 free-throw attempts -- when he scored 55 points against Washington on Friday, the kind of thing that would have set O’Neal to parables of big dogs that guard porches when they are fed, or something, and made the in-game huddles go grim.

“I’ve been through all of that,” O’Neal said. “I’m done with it. I’m an old head now. A guy that hot? Let him run and jump and do all that. He deserves it.”

Instead, O’Neal urged teammates to protect Bryant, who made 14 of his first 16 shots.

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“I told them, ‘Don’t let anybody touch him, try to knock him around,’ ” O’Neal said. “Sometimes happens to him, you don’t back him up, you’ll deal with me. What’s worse, a fine from David Stern or a punch in the face from me?”

*

Phil Jackson continues to wait on a third guard, clearly hoping rookie Kareem Rush takes the spot. He’s resigned to measuring situations with a rotation of Rush, Brian Shaw and Jannero Pargo, also a rookie.

“Kareem’s still learning the game,” Jackson said. “We tried to get him a lot of experience this year so when we got to the playoffs, he’d have some confidence. But I don’t know if he’s hit a shot in the last five games.”

He’s made two, actually, in nine attempts.

*

TONIGHT

vs. Memphis, 7:30 p.m. PST

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Fox Sports Net

Site -- Staples Center.

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

Records -- Lakers 42-31, Grizzlies 26-47.

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Record vs. Grizzlies -- 2-0.

Update -- The Lakers beat the Grizzlies twice in a week in late November-early December, and have never lost to the Grizzlies -- Vancouver or Memphis editions -- in 15 home games. After losing to the Clippers on Sunday, the Grizzlies still need a victory for the first winning month in franchise history.


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