Saturday, May 17
May 19, 7:43 AM ET
Jackson says O'Neal's no-show not professional
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Shaquille O'Neal was a no-show at the
Los Angeles Lakers' exit interviews Saturday, drawing a negative
reaction from coach Phil Jackson.
"I am upset. It's disrespectful to us as a staff,'' Jackson
said at the team's practice facility. "It's closure. It's adult
responsibility to do that.''
Team spokesman John Black said O'Neal and Rick Fox were the only
players on the 13-man roster who didn't make appointments for
Saturday's meetings. Two nights earlier, the Lakers' three-year run
as NBA champions ended when they were eliminated from the playoffs
by the San Antonio Spurs.
Fox is in New York recuperating from surgery on his left foot.
Nine players kept their appointments. Brian Shaw called to
reschedule for Monday, and Samaki Walker, an unrestricted free
agent who rarely played in the postseason, didn't call or show up,
Jackson said he didn't expect O'Neal to attend since he hadn't
filled out an appointment slip after Thursday night's 110-82 loss
to San Antonio, which gave the Spurs a 4-2 Western Conference
semifinal series victory.
Jackson also said O'Neal's physical condition will be a major
factor in the Lakers' attempt to return to the top.
"Our team needs the infusion of his energy at full throttle,''
the coach said.
O'Neal had surgery on his arthritic right big toe Sept. 11 and
missed the season's first 12 games recuperating from the operation.
Although he was often dominant and was selected as a member of the
All-NBA first team, he didn't appear 100 percent over a long period
He told Jackson after Game 5 of the San Antonio series that his
left knee was bothering him.
Jackson said he wouldn't think in terms of O'Neal's weight when
considering his conditioning, but added: "It's about discipline
and dedication. Whether it results in numbers, I don't care.''
"We've always known that as Shaq goes, so goes the Lakers,''
Jackson said. "It's still about the force you have in the
Jackson said meetings with the nine players who showed up -- Kobe
Bryant, Robert Horry, Devean George, Derek Fisher, Mark Madsen,
Slava Medvedenko, Jannero Pargo, Kareem Rush and Tracy Murray --
went very well.
Jackson repeated what general manager Mitch Kupchak said a day
earlier, that there will be changes on the roster next season.
The coach said improved defense is the biggest priority.
"That's our biggest problem right now,'' he said.
Bryant agreed, saying: "We need to get more athletic. I think
the main concern is defense, to be able to keep up with the teams.
I think scoring will take care of itself. Ultimately, you have to
Bryant said he will begin weight training Monday, and he plans
to keep in touch with O'Neal this summer.
"We'll talk,'' Bryant said. "I told him I was going to come
out to Orlando and visit him. We'll be in New York at the same
"Shaquille's going to be fine; he's going to be ready next
The Lakers have the 24th and 32nd overall picks in next month's
draft. Madsen, Shaw and Murray join Walker as unrestricted free
agents, and Kupchak said Friday that the Lakers will decide next
month whether to pick up the $5.3 million option on Horry's
If that doesn't happen, Horry also will be an unrestricted free
agent. There's a possibility the Lakers won't pick up the option
and will try to sign him at a lower salary.
"It's a business. I don't blame them. I would do it, too,''
Horry, who turns 33 this summer, said he'd take a pay cut,
although not too large.
"This summer, I just have to work on my game, figure out how to
make a 3,'' he said.
Horry has been a member of five championship teams -- three with
the Lakers and two with the Houston Rockets in 1994-95. A playoff
hero on many occasions with both teams, he was dreadful in these
playoffs, shooting 30-of-94, including 2-of-38 from 3-point range.
"I don't know if you have a word that's the opposite of
heroic,'' Horry said.
Jackson said he believes Horry can still help the Lakers.
"Whether that's going to happen will be played out,'' the coach