- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

PHILADELPHIA Los Angles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will get his shot at Michael Jordan when the Wizards visit Staples Center on Tuesday. But he's not looking at tomorrow's All-Star Game as a chance to upstage the player to whom he is most often compared.

"Not at all," Bryant said. "What we have to understand is that Michael has six championship rings, and I'm not here to compete for individual honors or individual respect or whatever it may be. So even though there's a lot of hoopla about the individual matchups, I'm here to win championships, and that's the No.1 thing for me. My focus is going to remain on that."

What Bryant said he is going to find most interesting in the next few days is watching Lakers coach Phil Jackson coaching against Jordan, his former player. Jordan and Jackson won the six titles together in Chicago. Now it's Jackson's job to make sure Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal remain on the same page and don't get bored during the regular season.

"We talked about that when we played in Chicago. I said [to Jackson], 'Man, this must be weird for you.' I can't imagine what it's going to be like to coach against Michael; he's been coaching him his entire career."

Bryant, born in Philadelphia, wore his father's NBA jersey when he played for the 76ers. Joe 'Jellybean' Bryant wore No. 23 with Philadelphia.

Letting bygones be bygones

Few player-coach relationships were any more acrimonious than the one shared by West All-Star coach Don Nelson and Sacramento power forward Chris Webber, who played for Nelson in Golden State.

Nelson rode Webber relentlessly and eventually traded him, following his rookie season, to the Wizards before the start of the 1994-95 season.

However Nelson, who yesterday named Webber to the starting lineup in place of O'Neal, and his former player seem to have mellowed. "I'm definitely going to go and sincerely thank him because he didn't have to do that," Webber said after being named a starter.

Nelson doesn't like to play young players. Webber came to him after leaving Michigan following his second year.

"We both went our ways and we both grew up, really I think in the right way," Nelson said. "He's matured nicely, and I think so did I. I needed to mature some, if you recall. I was a pretty tough guy, and now I'm a little easier and I'm not as serious. I think I'm a better coach today because of that experience."

O'Neal and Toronto guard Vince Carter are sitting out the game with injuries.

AWOL All-Stars

Michael Jordan announced weeks ago that he would not attend the media session, which was no surprise. Jordan has been blowing it off for years and accepting the $10,000 fine that goes along with skipping it.

Jordan wasn't the only All-Star not in attendance. Most notable for his absence was Philadelphia's Allen Iverson. The former Georgetown star relayed through team officials that he had a touch of the flu and wanted to be healthy enough to play in the game. Also absent was Karl Malone, who was in Utah.

Century club

O'Neal was asked if he thought he could ever match the 100-point performance Wilt Chamberlain achieved while playing for Philadelphia.

"If I thought about it, I probably couldn't," O'Neal said. "It would have to be one of those games where I'm hot, hitting my free throws and just getting a lot of one-on-one plays, a lot of dunks and a lot of quick baskets. I think I could get close."

Player recruitment

New Jersey guard Jason Kidd already has started a campaign to bring San Antonio power forward Tim Duncan to the Nets when he becomes a free agent before the 2003 season

Duncan's response?

"Really? Cool," Duncan said. "Give me his [telephone] number real quick. I'd love to talk to him when he's a free agent Anybody would love to talk to him. To hear something like that makes me feel great already."

Speaking of Kidd, Nets coach Byron Scott, who is leading the Eastern Conference team, was campaigning for his point guard for league MVP.

"I think he deserves it," Scott said. "I think he's had the biggest impact that any one player has had on any team so far. If there was a midseason exam right now and you stopped the NBA and said the season's over and let's start handing out the awards, to me Jason Kidd is the MVP."

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