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Payton Has the Green Light

Times Staff Writer

Gary Payton was a Milwaukee Buck for as long as it took to become a Laker, 28 regular-season games and six playoff games and one telephone call.

So, he returned Monday night for tonight’s game at Bradley Center with all of the emotion you might expect -- “Just another game, man. I’m just going to play. I’m playing for the Lakers now, just going to get a win,” he said -- and with a new offense whose participants are only beginning to understand what it will take to keep up.

Payton’s game is substance and flash. Which drives which is debatable, but he runs and passes and talks and glares and prods, and then he laughs and teammates laugh along with him, often enough while backpedaling down the floor.

He is under orders from Coach Phil Jackson to fastbreak at all costs, even if he’s the only one getting up the floor, even if it’s Sunday evening against the Golden State Warriors and very few legs are cooperating.

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“We’re going to have to find a little energy,” Payton said. “If we find energy to [run], it’s going to be good.”

Even in the second games of back-to-backs, Jackson said, he wants Payton to go, go, go, and that everyone else will just have to adapt, adapt, adapt.

“I really believe that Gary will push and drive the team,” he said. “I think he’ll drive them to run. That’s one of the features

Through three games, the Lakers have 34 fastbreak points to their opponents’ seven and have led in the category in each game.

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“He’s handling the things we’ve asked him to do as far as distributing the ball, organizing the offense, getting people involved,” Jackson said. “What bothered me [Saturday] night [in Phoenix] was he had eight assists at half and one in the second half. We really didn’t move and allow him the opportunity to do the creative things he does for us with the ball and run the court with the same kind of determination we had in the first half.”

So, Payton had six of his 11 assists in the second half Sunday night, they all held off the younger Warriors and they arrived in Milwaukee 3-0.

*

Back on the road for Kobe Bryant, in places you wouldn’t expect to be as accommodating as Phoenix.

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“I expect the worst,” he said, “the scariest environment possible.”

After Milwaukee, the Lakers go to San Antonio, New Orleans and Memphis, Tenn.

*

Jackson said he expected three wins in four games on the trip, granting -- with a thin grin -- his players would be insulted by the assumption of one defeat somewhere.

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“We’re just going to kind of work our way through that San Antonio-New Orleans back-to-back,” he said. “That’s really the key to this next road trip. ... I think we’ll be not quite ready for San Antonio. The level they’re playing at right now might be a little bit higher than we do, because they’ve got more guys used to the system down there.”

*

Karl Malone and his shoe company, Dada Footwear, will donate 1,000 pair of shoes to victims of the Southern California wildfires, Dada representative Joe Hardy said Monday.

The shoes will be distributed through the American Red Cross. *

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Slava Medvedenko underwent an MRI exam on his bruised left heel. It was negative. The club hopes he will be able to play sometime on the trip.

TONIGHT

vs. Milwaukee Bucks

5 p.m., (6, Channel 9, delayed)

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Site -- Bradley Center

Radio -- KLAC-AM (570), KWKW-AM (1330)

Records -- Lakers 3-0, Bucks 2-1.

Record vs. Bucks (2002-03) -- 2-0.

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Update -- Terry Porter, whose coaching resume consists of one season as an assistant to Sacramento’s Rick Adelman, replaces George Karl. Porter is a Milwaukee native, which should help as he stands out in front of an organization that has slipped since last season. From last year’s 42-game winner, the Bucks lost Payton, Sam Cassell and Ervin Johnson.


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