Originally created 05/08/00

Kidd's status in question

LOS ANGELES -- The Phoenix Suns appear to be in big trouble. Not only do they appear stuck for a successful answer in terms of defending Shaquille O'Neal, the status of star guard Jason Kidd is in question.

Kidd felt soreness in his left ankle during and after the Suns' 105-77 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Sunday's opener of the Western Conference semifinals. He didn't practice Monday and won't again Tuesday.

"I just watched practice and went over the game plan," he said Monday in Phoenix, where the Suns began preparations for Game 2 of the best-of-seven series at Staples Center on Wednesday night. "I'll rest for the next couple of days, we'll see how it feels.

"If it doesn't feel any better, then I won't go Wednesday. But my plans are to feel good and go out there and win a ballgame."

Kidd was generally ineffective in 39 minutes of Game 1, going 1-of-6 from the field in scoring three points, and committing five of his team's 23 turnovers. He did contribute otherwise with seven rebounds, seven assists and one blocked shot.

It was just his second game since he broke his ankle March 22. X-rays taken Monday showed the ankle wasn't reinjured.

"The X-rays looked fine," Kidd said. "We iced it. I'm gaining confidence, seeing the bone is completely healed. Off all I've done, the screws haven't moved. I practiced pretty hard those three days (before Sunday's game), and maybe I overdid it and the fatigue set in and it just tightened up on me."

Several Lakers said after the game it was obvious Kidd wasn't his normal self, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson made the same observation Monday.

"Jason looked like he was slowing down a little bit during the game," Jackson said at the Lakers' practice facility in nearby El Segundo. "I don't know if it was his health."

Suns coach Scott Skiles said as much as he wants Kidd to play, he won't do anything to risk further injury.

"We have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow, and just hope that he's ready," Skiles said. "If he's not, we'll do what we did when he couldn't play and that's play hard and try to win without him."

The Suns did just that twice in their first three games against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Kidd returned to play 31 minutes in his team's 89-78 victory in Game 4, scoring nine points and getting 10 assists.

The Suns generally played O'Neal straight up Sunday, and it didn't work, especially in the second and third quarters, when O'Neal had 26 of his 37 points and 10 of his 14 rebounds as the Lakers took command.

"The ball's in their court, so to speak," Jackson said. "They have the choice whether to make a radical change or a small change. They'll probably make a small change.

"What they did well against San Antonio (and David Robinson) was they fronted, then had somebody come from the back side. They're very athletic, they can do that."

Skiles indicated that any adjustments would be minor, and said his team had to do a better job taking care of the ball.

"Shaq had a great game, but I've looked at it several times now and we just handed him the ball on so many occasions," Skiles said. "We may make some adjustments, or we may not.

"Our execution was just sloppy. We more or less handed them the ball on several occasions. They're a good defensive team, but they're not so good that we should have been doing that."

O'Neal said he wasn't concerned about what the Suns, or other teams, do against him.

"I just have to react," he said. "Mostly when I get the ball in the blue, I'm looking for my shot. I'm just taking high-percentage shots. When the double-team comes, I'm looking for Glen (Rice), I'm looking for Kobe (Bryant). We have a lot of weapons on this team."

O'Neal did say he expected Game 2 to be tougher and different than Game 1, but added, "Whenever we bring our `A' game, nine out of 10 times, we're going to win."

The winner of the NBA Most Valuable Player award will be announced Tuesday, and O'Neal appears a virtual lock to be so honored for the first time.

"I hope I get it," he said with a smile. "I'm having a pretty good year."


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