The Lakers said goodbye again to Robert Horry on Friday night, this time with his old No. 5 jersey inside a frame, this time with fans on their feet at Staples Center.
Back in the arena of his most famous shot, the three-pointer that beat the Sacramento Kings in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference finals and pushed the Lakers to their third consecutive NBA title, Horry accepted with dignity and a happy smile.
“It’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s cool,” Horry said of standing in San Antonio Spur black, taking a Laker jersey. “It’s like they’re trying to tell me something, like I should retire or something.”
Actually, he said, “It tells me they appreciate the little things.”
The Lakers declined to exercise the option on Horry’s contract after last season and used that money to chase Karl Malone and Gary Payton.
Asked if he thought his last big shot for the Lakers -- the three-pointer that didn’t go in in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals at San Antonio last season -- changed the course of his career, Horry shook his head.
“I don’t think so, because you go back and look at the contract stuff and the way Karl and Gary wanted to be here,” he said. “They still would have made that move.... I’m still happy I got a chance to play here.”
The Staples crowd showed its appreciation with a warm and sustained ovation.
Statistically speaking, the triangle offense and the dynamics of playing with each other have had a predictable impact on the members of the Big Four.
After 15 games, scoring averages were down from last season for Shaquille O’Neal (27.5 to 20.9), Kobe Bryant (30 to 22.4), Malone (20.6 to 15.1) and Payton (20.4 to 14.4).
The Lakers, however, have scored an average of 103.4 points, three points more than last season, and are shooting better as a team, 46.8% to 45.1%.
Among the four superstars, only O’Neal has become less accurate; his field-goal percentage is lower than it was last year, while Bryant, Malone and Payton have higher percentages than when they were the pivotal scorers for the Lakers, Utah Jazz and Seattle SuperSonics/Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
O’Neal, who finished second in the league in field-goal percentage last season and leads the league this season, has had his field-goal percentage dip slightly, from 57.4 to 54.9. Malone and Bryant have each improved about three points.
Bryant has taken the hardest hit in average field-goal attempts, losing 8.4 from last season. O’Neal is taking 3.1 fewer shots per game, the least among the group.
In the summer of 2002, Bryon Russell had finished his career in Utah. After nine seasons he was a free agent, and he narrowed his choices of new organizations to Washington and San Antonio.
He chose Michael Jordan. The Spurs won an NBA title.
“Once I made the decision there shouldn’t be any regret,” Russell said.
His minutes decreased, his shooting percentage was the worst of his career, the Wizards didn’t make the playoffs in the soft Eastern Conference. The Spurs won an NBA title.
“I just said, ‘You know what? I guess I just passed up the opportunity,’ ” Russell said, then grinned. “But, I wasn’t going to pass it up this year.”
Rick Fox is a week or so from full-court, five-on-five scrimmaging, according to Phil Jackson.... Brian Cook said he’ll start the same in about two weeks.