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Laker All-Star Party Is Cut Down in Size

Right about now I’d imagine most wives are pretty upset with Kobe Bryant.

They need to just get over it, of course, and learn to live with a messy garage.

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WE’VE GOT boxes everywhere out there, many of them half-eaten by Irish, the new puppy who is apparently pretty upset he wasn’t named Trojan. Imagine the destruction had we called him Bruin.

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I’ve been telling the wife for some time now I’m the wrong guy to clean the garage because I type for a living, and now that Bryant has been injured, you can see what happens to a husband who apparently just can’t say no.

He’s got a nasty cut, so someone has to take his place on the court. How would you like to wake up and find someone else on Page 2? OK, so maybe we shouldn’t go there ... which is exactly the point I’m trying to make about the garage.

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AS THE world turns in Lakerland: Word from Orlando is the stitches remain in Bryant’s finger, so with a week to go before the NBA All-Star game in Staples Center, we still don’t know if Bryant will participate.

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If not, now wouldn’t that be the perfect commentary to a dream-team season gone awry? Flash back to the start of this much-anticipated season, and this year’s All-Star game looked as if it’d be a huge Laker celebration in Staples, and a chance for the rest of the country to see how much fun we were having watching these guys dominate.

Had it gone as planned, this year’s All-Star game really would have been an homage to greatness. Phil Jackson, representing the team with the best record in the conference, and a team capable of winning more regular-season games than any other in NBA history, figured to be introduced as the All-Star coach.

Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant, locks to make an All-Star team no matter where the game was being played, might have also been joined by Gary Payton. Payton, a nine-time All-Star who made the financial sacrifice to sign with the Lakers, would’ve undoubtedly received a lot of attention playing for such an unbeatable team.

Such sentiment and momentum might have also earned Karl Malone a role as an All-Star reserve. (Sorry to say, a severe case of flu, sidelining every other player in the NBA, would probably still not be enough to get Devean George an All-Star look.)

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But instead of a Laker celebration, we get a Laker team that’s a shambles, packing the fifth-best record in the West and coming off a 23-point loss to a team that had supposedly quit.

Instead of great Laker expectations, we get Payton fresh off his second ejection of the season, O’Neal making 12 of his last 35 free throws and showing about as much remorse as he did after cursing on national TV, and who knows when we’ll get Malone again.

What a letdown. And come All-Star Sunday, Laker fans might get nothing more than an appearance off the bench from O’Neal.

I say nothing more, because after what happened last Sunday at halftime of the Super Bowl, I’m guessing there’s no way the NBA is going to allow a halftime interview with the Big Potty Mouth.

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BY THE looks of it, Magic Johnson will be doing the talking for the Lakers this week. It appears the NBA is focusing much of its All-Star hype on Johnson rather than Bryant, steering clear, I guess, because of that accident in his garage.

A full-page advertisement in The Times is urging everyone to get their tickets to “celebrate the rewarding life of Magic Johnson,” which will benefit Johnson’s HIV/AIDS foundation.

In addition to Jessica Simpson and OutKast’s Big Boi, Dr. J., Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell will join Johnson in the Shrine Auditorium on Thursday night. I’m told it will not be in a talk-show setting, so it should be entertaining.

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ESPN.COM’S JAYSON Stark listed an all-unemployment team of free agents recently, which might explain why the Dodgers have been so terrible. Of the nine players listed, including the designated hitter, six of them were former Dodgers: first baseman Fred McGriff, shortstop Jeff Reboulet, third baseman Ron Coomer, left fielder Rickey Henderson, right fielder Raul Mondesi and catcher Chad Krueter. Throw in starter Andy Ashby, and I remind you, you were paying good money to watch these folks play not too long ago.

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A YEAR ago the Dodgers brought McGriff, the “Crime Dog,” to L.A.; now there’s talk of adding Greg Maddux, the “Mad Dog.”

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The conclusion: If there’s a dog out there, you can bet the Dodgers will go after him.

Darren Rovell of espn.com reported last week that the Dodgers spent $4,000 on a “Countdown to History” sign they were going to put up in Dodger Stadium last season to mark McGriff’s march to 500 home runs. McGriff came to L.A. with 478, left with 491 and the sign sat unused in the stadium basement.

That might explain why the Dodgers are so interested in Maddux. Maddux needs 11 more wins to reach 300, giving the Dodgers a chance to still get their $4,000 worth out of that “Countdown to History” sign.

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I’M TOLD there is also an NHL All-Star game, and it’s this weekend. Apparently, there’s also talk that a labor dispute could wipe out the 2004-05 NHL season. I wonder if I’d miss something that I already make a point of trying to ignore.

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TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Patrick Nollan:

“What’s up with The Times’ coverage of Pac-10 women’s basketball? I can never find the Pac-10 standings for the women, but the men’s Pac-10 standings seem to appear daily. Is this just an oversight?”

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I wouldn’t think so.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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