Originally created 05/04/02

Idle Lakers anxious to begin Western Conference semifinals

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers' layoff is just about over.


Although eager to resume playing, the two-time defending NBA champions say it's been a positive week and don't expect it to result in rustiness or a lethargic effort.

"I don't worry about it," Kobe Bryant said after practice Friday. "I think our experience will come through. Game rhythm is different, there's only so much you can do in practice. Our experience will help us work through that."

The Lakers will have had a full week off when they begin the Western Conference semifinals Sunday at Staples Center against Seattle or San Antonio, who played the fifth and deciding game of their first-round series Friday night.

Game 2 is Tuesday night before the best-of-seven series shifts to Seattle or San Antonio.

"It's going to be rough on them, with the travel, playing a long series, coming in and playing the world champions on their homecourt," Bryant said of the Seattle-San Antonio survivor.

The Lakers have been off since completing a three-game sweep of Portland last Sunday - a layoff similar to three they had last season, when they swept the Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and Spurs before beating Philadelphia 4-1 in the NBA Finals.

There was no evidence of anything negative following the first two series, when they had long layoffs, but the Lakers lost the first game of the finals after a 10-day break before winning four straight to wrap up a 15-1 postseason and their second straight title.

Guard Brian Shaw doesn't believe the Lakers will show any ill effects of their layoff. And he doesn't believe their opponent to be badly worn out, either.

"It's different when it's a fifth game rather than a seventh game," he said. "And these games (in the first round) have been spread out.

"It's been OK following the same steps as last year; we had a week off between series."

The Lakers watched film of both the Sonics and Spurs after Friday's practice.

"We're obviously expecting San Antonio to win," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "There's a variety of things that point to San Antonio being the odds-on favorite."

Jackson cited the advantage the Lakers will have since they'll be fresh to begin the series. They took Monday and Thursday off and practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and will go one final time Saturday.

"There's not a whole lot you can do to prevent a lethargy that comes over a team when you're not playing," Jackson admitted. "Today they're anxious to play, their competitive juices are flowing."

Jackson said forward Samaki Walker, diagnosed Monday with a bone bruise on his left knee, is ready to go.

"Samaki was out there (at practice)," Jackson said. "'He's not going to be 100 percent for a while, but we'll take what we can get. He's going to be fine. He's going to get some stiffness in the knee. (But) he's going to be OK to start the game."

Walker may start, but Robert Horry generally finishes at power forward. It was Horry who hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in the Lakers' 92-91 victory over Portland last Sunday as the Lakers completed their first-round sweep.

The Lakers finished the regular season with a 58-24 record - the same as the Spurs, but earned homecourt advantage by winning three of the four games between the teams during the regular season.

The Lakers were also 3-1 against the Sonics, who were 45-37.


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