Having sat out one game because of a bruised thigh and after missing a couple of layups in his exhibition debut, Laker forward Caron Butler thought he owed Rudy Tomjanovich an explanation. So he pulled the Laker coach aside after a practice and told him he was just a little rusty, nothing that couldn't be eliminated with a little playing time.
"I already knew that," Tomjanovich told him.
Said Butler: "I still thought it was best that he heard it."
What Tomjanovich heard when Butler shot the ball Tuesday night in an exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings was swish rather than clank.
Butler, whose offense will be crucial if defenses are to stay honest against Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, made eight of 15 shots, including both three-pointers he attempted, to lead the Lakers with 18 points.
Does Butler, acquired with Odom in the deal for Shaquille O'Neal, feel pressure to succeed as the Lakers' third offensive option?
"I'm a contributor," he said, "One way or the other, I'll be out there."
When 36-year-old center Vlade Divac said at practice Wednesday that he's going to have to hustle to keep up with the club's up-tempo offense, a television reporter asked how it would be any different from the past when the Lakers had a big, slow center.
Divac, not about to criticize O'Neal, smiled and said, "I don't speak English."
With the start of the regular season less than two weeks away, the Laker exhibition schedule accelerates with four games in the next five days.
There will be doubleheaders tonight and Friday at Staples Center. The Lakers will face the Golden State Warriors tonight after the Clippers play the Denver Nuggets. Friday night, the Lakers and Clippers face each other, with the Warriors playing the Nuggets.
After an off day, the Lakers will play the Phoenix Suns on Sunday in Las Vegas and the Seattle SuperSonics on Monday in San Diego.
As part of the NBA's Read to Achieve Week, Tomjanovich, six Lakers and the Laker Girls appeared at Center Street Elementary School in El Segundo on Wednesday, where they joined the students in reading and pumpkin painting.