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Jackson Is First Domino

Times Staff Writer

In what is sure to be a hectic summer for Laker owner Jerry Buss and his general manager, Mitch Kupchak, the first priority might well become the resumption of negotiations with Phil Jackson.

On Monday, Rick Fox became the latest Laker to tie his future in the organization to Jackson’s, at least in part.

Shaquille O’Neal, who cannot leave until after next season, and Karl Malone, who is mulling retirement, have said they would prefer Jackson to return. O’Neal implied he’d consider opting out of his contract and leave more than $30 million behind.

Jackson said Tuesday he appreciated the support and that he would consider it when negotiations restarted.

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“There’s a certain sense of loyalty that goes with the job,” Jackson said. “I know the relationship I have with some of these players is ... great. I appreciate their effort and the way they played for us, their desire to do well and compete on the floor as well as perform well.

“There’s a lot of things that go into the decision.”

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On Monday afternoon, Malone decided to cancel the appointment with his doctor, Ralph Venuto, and to play on with a swollen hand.

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“I didn’t go because I wasn’t going to do anything anyway, just play,” Malone said.

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Kareem Rush, who has had pain in his right foot for going on two months, went to the injured list Tuesday because of a bone bruise in his right foot.

Rush said he was suffering from nerve inflammation and that he frequently experienced numbness and “extreme” pain in recent days.

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The move gave the Lakers 11 active players when they could have 12. They’ll bring Horace Grant off the injured list in the next week.

The club originally targeted Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs for Grant’s return, but he said Tuesday he’s more likely to test his hip next Tuesday against Portland or April 9 against Memphis.

Either way, the transaction will allow the Lakers to measure Grant’s readiness for the playoffs. If he is unable to play, Rush could serve his mandatory five games on the injured list and still have four games before the postseason.

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In less than two years in Memphis, Jerry West has enhanced his reputation as a builder of NBA rosters and evaluator of personnel, remarkable considering all he’d done in Los Angeles.

That he’s done it in Tennessee, West told the Orange County Register recently, had made it all the more, well, peaceful.

“I miss my associations with the people in the Laker franchise, no question,” he said. “But I don’t miss the soap opera scene they have out there. You always have that when you have some of the best players and most interesting personalities on one team. Let’s just say I’m glad Memphis has only one newspaper.”

On Monday, the day the Grizzlies clinched their first playoff berth, West returned a call to Memphis Commercial-Appeal beat writer Ron Tillery ... for the first time in three months.

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Shaunie O’Neal, Shaq’s wife, co-hosted “Lakers Living Room” on Fox Sports Net 2, a role that technically made her a media member.

Shaq goes weeks at a time without speaking to reporters. Asked, then, if he’d be talking to Shaunie, he said, “Hell no!” and strode into the bathroom.

A few minutes later, O’Neal returned and said, “Hey, I talk to you guys.”

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