AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson considered changing his starting lineup for Game 4 of the NBA Finals, then went with his usual unit, including the injured Karl Malone.
Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Devean George, Rick Fox and Derek
Fisher -- all members of the Lakers' championship teams from
2000-2002 -- met with Jackson on Saturday to suggest the coach start
them as a unit because of their experience with the team.
"I like involvement with players," Jackson said 90 minutes
before Sunday night's game against the Detroit Pistons began. "I
like the proactive kind of leadership that the team gives."
Jackson refused to announce his lineup at that time, saying:
"You'll see at game time."
O'Neal, Bryant, George, Malone and Gary Payton got the call, as
Jackson said he spoke to some players about their health and
made his decision based on that issue as well as practice Saturday
and the shootaround earlier Sunday.
"We need some revitalization in our lineup. We need to get
going," the coach said. "We've got some game guys that really
want to perform and do the best job, but right now, that's not good
enough, unless they can play above 80 or 85 percent of their
Jackson said the main problem in the first three games of the
finals was rebounding and second-chance points. The Pistons
averaged 6.3 more rebounds than the Lakers in the first three games
and had 16 second-chance points to three for Los Angeles in winning
the third game 88-68.
"We think that if we solve those kind of problems, we'll be
fine," he said. "That's all reaction to the ball."
Fisher seemed surprised word of the players' meeting with
Jackson filtered out -- it was reported in Sunday's Los Angeles
Times and Sacramento Bee.
"I don't know, but I doubt it," he said an hour before the
opening tipoff when asked if he was going to start.
He refused comment about the meeting.
Jackson said at Saturday's news conference he was considering
starting Slava Medvedenko in place of Malone, who has what the team
has called a sprained right knee ligament but what Malone believes
to be a torn ligament.
Malone was late coming onto the court before Sunday night's
game, apparently receiving treatment from trainer Gary Vitti.
Payton, slowed by an illness the past few days, said he felt
"I'm good," he said.
"Don't ask me about that," he replied when asked if he knew
whether he was going to start.
Payton has started every game in his first season with the
Lakers -- 82 in the regular season and 21 in the playoffs.
The Pistons led the Lakers 2-1 entering Game 4. No team has ever
come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the finals.
Magic Johnson, a part owner and vice president of the Lakers,
criticized the team's effort in the series on Saturday. He singled
out Payton, saying among other things that at age 35, Payton isn't
the same player he was 10 years ago.
"I don't care about that," Payton said of Johnson's remarks.