- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

The team in purple and gold professed to be the Lakers, possibly the Lakers Lite, in light of the team's massive vacancy at center, Shaquille O'Neal's position once he returns to duty.
The Lakers could drive most coaches to the nearest pub at the moment and the Zen master to his relaxation tapes and slow-breathing exercises.
Sympathy, an inappropriate expression in the NBA, was not in evidence on Fun Street last night.
Wizards 100, Lakers 99.
This assist went to the luck of the schedule.
Kobe Bryant dropped into town after a 17-for-47 shooting performance the previous night against the Celtics. He showed no signs of discomfort with either his right elbow or wrist, and no signs of guilt around the Wizards. Life without Shaq is liberating, though hardly as efficient.
"I haven't seen anybody shoot 47 shots before, ever," the Zen master said after the overtime loss in Boston.
That is to confirm the Zen master was awake on the bench to see all 47 field goal attempts.
"Whatever the team needs from me to win, that's what I'm trying to do," Bryant said before the game.
Rebound the ball. Play defense. Take 47 shots.
The Wizards met up with the Lakers at the right time, and not just because O'Neal was out of commission with a temperamental big toe.
This was a get-away game for the Lakers, the last game of their mini-East Coast swing and their third game in four nights. This is the game on the schedule most likely to prompt an uneven performance from a team.
Rick Fox was in uniform to help the Lakers after completing his six-game suspension, the NBA's response to Fox taking his preseason spat with Doug Christie outside the confines of the floor.
Fox can miss an outside shot as easily as the rest of the Lakers, which has become one of the team's habits in O'Neal's absence. The floor is a whole lot more open if the opposition is collapsed around O'Neal.
Samaki Walker is the substitute to O'Neal, as substitute is defined down with four fewer inches and perhaps 100 fewer pounds. Walker is just another 6-foot-9, 255-pound body with a Swahili first name in the NBA. Samaki means "fish" in Swahili. Samaki Walker means "hurry up and get better, Shaq Daddy" in Los Angeles-speak.
Coach Doug Collins and the Wizards felt an urge not to squander the latest opportunity. The lost opportunity is the thread that connects the team's first three losses of the season. The Wizards lost to the 74 points of the Raptors and to the 87 points of the Nets. They also lost to the Timberwolves after leading by 12 points in the final seconds of the third quarter. The 2-9 start by the Wizards last season, or a version of it, is the hole to be avoided.
Michael Jordan felt he owed the Lakers, the Zen master in particular, given the special bond between the two. Jordan called it a season after playing against the Lakers last spring, if playing on two bum knees is playing. Jordan scored two points in 12 minutes in that game.
"Michael has a long memory," Collins said before the game.
Jordan's memory is still sharp, even if other parts of him no longer function as well as they once did.
Jordan reprised some of his wicked stuff and hit shots all over the floor.
Jordan and Bryant met up with one another in the waning minutes of the first half, the old vs. the new, in one of the best moments of the night.
Jordan worked the gifted pup, leaning one way, rocking another way, then rising above the defensive pressure to sink a turnaround 15-footer from the right baseline.
Bryant accepted the buzz from the crowd as a challenge to respond in kind at the other end of the floor, to expose Jordan as he was exposed. A weak foul call against Jordan soon followed, the moment between the two lost.
Bryant also was in the vicinity of Jerry Stackhouse in the final seconds of the third quarter. Stackhouse dribbled around Bryant and unleashed a body-contorting, double-clutch 15-footer from the right baseline just as time expired. The improbable shot dropped through the net and pushed the Wizards to a 14-point lead.
The Lakers eventually made a push, and the Wizards teetered.
Bryant blocked a shot by Jordan during a 10-0 run by the Lakers.
The Wizards regained their equilibrium, and the game.


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