Trash Is Taken Out in War of the Words

Times Staff Writers

The Lakers shook their heads in disbelief, some in irritation, some while smiling.

The first shot had been lobbed by Clipper guard Marko Jaric, who proclaimed the Lakers “play good basketball” but were not better than the Clippers, a truth that would be demonstrated “sooner or later.”

Laker forward Lamar Odom read the paper and brought Jaric’s quotes to the attention of his teammates at Wednesday morning’s shoot-around.


“It’s interesting,” Odom said. “It definitely helps to get us up.”

Laker guard Chucky Atkins took it a step further by drawing up an unflattering football analogy.

“That’s like the punter saying something,” Atkins said, making clear the distinction of comments coming from Jaric instead of Elton Brand or Corey Maggette.

“I thought it was rather funny. We were wondering why he wasn’t saying that earlier in the season. He’s saying it when we’re without Kobe [Bryant]. He should have said that at the beginning of the year.”

Jaric had the last laugh Wednesday, as the Clippers defeated the Lakers, 105-89.


Now that Brand feels more like himself, lingering pain in his surgically repaired left knee and right ring finger having subsided and no longer limiting his effectiveness as it had in November and December, the double-doubles are being registered with greater frequency.


He has strung together eight in a row, averaging 24.1 points and 13.3 rebounds during his most impressive stretch of the season.

“It’s a combination of things: getting shots, feeling confident,” said Brand, who had 28 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday night. “Definitely the body feels good. The leg’s coming back. I’m just embracing my role, stepping up.”

Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy has taken notice.

“He’s just been a little more active, as far as getting to rebounds,” Dunleavy said. “He’s been much better as far as the boards, for sure. There’s been a lot of nights when his outside shot in the pick-and-roll game has been pretty good for us, and we’ve been trying to give him the ball in isolation situations a little bit more too. It’s been a combination of different stuff.”

A few weeks ago, Dunleavy said he was still searching for a go-to guy, a player who could take over in crucial situations and deliver results.

Said Brand: “I feel like you can go to me to get a bucket. I think I’ve been showing that.”


Laker forward Luke Walton had a career-high 19 points Tuesday against Seattle, but he did not play Wednesday because of a sprained left ankle sustained against the SuperSonics. X-rays were negative.... Laker forward Caron Butler is scheduled to appear tonight on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” He is expected to talk about overcoming a lengthy stay in a juvenile detention center while growing up in Racine, Wis.