McAdoo Opts for Winning

Times Staff Writer

Considering all that could await Kobe Bryant this summer, perhaps the least critical element would be choosing his next basketball team, whether it is the Lakers or not the Lakers.

He insists he will opt out of his contract and experience free agency. Beyond that, he is noncommittal. He could re-sign with the Lakers for more money and a longer term than any other franchise could offer, or he could leave Shaquille O'Neal and the constraints of the triangle offense forever.

Before Sunday night's game against the Miami Heat, Bryant spoke briefly with Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo, who over 13 years had an end-to-end NBA experience. He won three scoring titles early in his career, won two NBA titles late in his career, and then left the Lakers in the midst of a run of five championships in nine years.

The Lakers waived their rights to a 34-year-old McAdoo after the 1984-85 season. McAdoo played half a season with the Philadelphia 76ers and then left for Italy, where he played seven more years.

McAdoo admitted to frustration and sadness for a long time after walking away from a rich situation.

"I was a little depressed," he said. "What are you going to do? Management made the call. I went on ahead."

To make it worse, his first game as a 76er was at the Forum.

"In my younger career, I got all the MVPs and scoring titles," McAdoo said. "Even though I was trying to get a championship, I didn't have enough talent [around me]. I ended up doing what Karl Malone and Gary Payton did, taking less money to win a championship before my career was over.

"Kobe, in the beginning, got the championships. He probably wants to get out of there and not be in anyone's shadow. So, it's a hard thing to call. That's his call. I wouldn't know what to tell him in that situation. All I know is, I'd rather be in a winning situation. If you're going to be with guys for eight months, I'd rather be in a winning situation than a losing situation. In between Buffalo and L.A., I had some stops on some bad teams and it was very frustrating for me."

McAdoo said he admired the decisions made this summer by Malone and Payton, whose combined 31 NBA seasons had netted many things, but not an NBA title.

"I understand," he said. "They've done it all. They've done it all in their career. They want a chance to win a championship, to be playing in June, to put a ring on your finger. That makes your career complete. It really does."


Pat Riley watched Sunday night's game from a suite at Staples Center, only a team president now after resigning as Heat coach four days before the season began.

Phil Jackson said he understood.

"I think I'll be retired by the time he gets back," the Laker coach said. "But I do expect him to come back at some point."

Maybe there will be a better team out there for him.

"I can only relate to my own experience," Jackson said. "Just having gone through a season like I went through last year, which ended up 50-32, was a very difficult season, because of the amount of losses we had. I can't imagine what an inverted season, a 32-50 season, would be like. You get used to winning."


Kurt Rambis, who will have surgery Wednesday to repair a tendon in his left foot, two years ago required stitches and an ambulance ride after slicing his leg. The first incident came while playing against Mark Madsen before a game in New Jersey, the second while practicing against Rick Fox in El Segundo.

"I've been injured more as an assistant coach than I was as a player," Rambis said.

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