Lakers 99, Grizzlies 91
Feb. 22, 1997
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ George McCloud watched his first game with the Los Angeles Lakers in street clothes because Joe Kleine, dealt to New Jersey in exchange for McCloud, delayed his physical with the Nets until today.
``He has 48 hours and he's leaving his family behind in Phoenix, so there's obviously no urgency for him to get to New Jersey _ if you know what I mean,'' Lakers coach Del Harris said with a smirk about an hour before Friday night's 99-91 victory over the Vancouver Grizzlies. ``I don't think he's a major part of their scheme.''
The same can't be said for McCloud, who is expected to make his debut in purple and gold on Sunday at the Forum against the New York Knicks. The 3-point specialist no doubt will take some of the long-range opportunities away from Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel, who combined for nine 3s against Vancouver.
Harris is ecstatic about general manager Jerry West's newest acquisition, which came about six weeks after the trade that sent Cedric Ceballos to Phoenix for Robert Horry. And all it cost West was a little-used third-string center and a couple of draft picks.
``We came out of it very well,'' Harris said. ``We didn't even want our draft pick this year, so we were always hoping that we could use it to get a little experience and a viable player who was at the end of his contract.
``So, in trading Ceballos, we actually ended up trading him for McCloud and Horry and got rid of the draft pick we didn't want, anyway.''
Even though Horry and All-Star center Shaquille O'Neal aren't expected back in the lineup until April because of knee injuries, Harris is happoy with his potential postseason roster _ fortified with the arrival of McCloud.
``We just made ourselves a so much better ballclub,'' Harris said. ``I'm really looking for the time that we can put this all back together again. It's going to be exciting. Hopefully, everybody will keep a good attitude through this period and not lose faith in ourselves.''
Vancouver rookie Shareef Abdur-Rahim capped a 30-point effort with a 3-pointer, pulling the Grizzlies to a 93-91 deficit with three minutes left.
But Elden Campbell bailed out the Lakers, who avoided losing three straight at the Forum for the first time since Harris took over as coach at the start of the 1994-95 season.
Campbell, in the first year of a seven-year, $49 million contract, scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half after playing the final 8 1/2 minutes with five fouls. Since moving from forward to center, he has helped keep the Lakers atop the Pacific Division while O'Neal recovers from a hyperextended left knee.
``It doesn't compare to when Shaq is in there,'' said Campbell, who scored a career-high 34 points against Chicago on Feb. 5. ``Shaq's the center of attention and he's going to get the looks. Now that he's out, I'm going to get the looks and it makes a difference in my game. It's nice, because I'm just finding out now that I'm a center.''
Campbell finished with 12 rebounds and scored six points in the final 3 1/2 minutes. He beat the 24-second shot clock with an eight-foot jumper with 1:04 to play and sank two free throws with 22 seconds left to clinch it.
``This period we're going through without Shaq is instilling a lot of confidence in Elden and showing him what he can do on the court,'' teammate Jerome Kersey said. ``He was struggling a little bit before Shaq got hurt, and people were a little down on him, so maybe this will get a few of the critics off his back.''
Jones also had 23 points and Van Exel added 17 points and eight assists, helping send Vancouver to its ninth loss in 11 games and third in a row.
The Lakers have won all seven games against the second-year expansion team. This was their only victory by fewer than 10 points.
``It's all about execution,'' Adbur-Rahim said. ``We executed better in the first half than we did in the second half. We feel good about the fact that we played hard and competed. What you want to do it put yourself in a position to win, and we definitely were.''