LOS ANGELES — It was several years back, and the Jazz were playing the Los Angeles Lakers at the Forum in Inglewood.

Hot Rod Hundley's old buddy from West Virginia, was general manager of the Lakers, and Jerry West had a plan.

"He said 'I'll see ya after the game; we'll go out for a little while,"' Hundley recalled before Wednesday night's Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference playoff semifinal series between the Jazz and Lakers. "So we (the Jazz) beat them and beat them pretty good.

"I go into the press room to meet him, and I know there's no use even going in there."

He was right.

"They (press-room attendants) said, 'He went on home,"' Hundley said. "He hated to lose."

So does 73-year-old Hundley, the longtime Jazz play-by-play man now in his third season calling games for the organization exclusively on the radio after 31 working TV/radio simulcasts.

And that is why even though there may be cause for his allegiances to be torn — Hundley played all six of his NBA seasons for the Lakers, including three in Los Angeles after they moved from Minneapolis in 1960 — he, truth be told, loves it when the Lakers lose to Utah.

"If I'm very honest about it," Hundley said, "if we (the Jazz) got eliminated, I'm a Laker fan. But I'd rather beat them than anybody in the NBA, I'm telling ya. I get so mad and frustrated at our team sometimes (when then lose to the Lakers). I want to beat them, man.

"It's a thing that all professional players have, that you always want to beat the team you just left."

Never mind that Hundley left the Lakers roster in 1963.

"Thirty-four years with the Jazz," he said, "you become a fan."

There is no better-known Laker fan, of course, than actor Jack Nicholson, whose Staples Center courtside seat is just four down from where Hundley sat to call Wednesday's Game 5.

"He's a Laker die-hard, since 1960 when they moved here," Hundley said.

That's right: Long before "Chinatown" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," way before "Batman" and "A Few Good Men," back when he was a fledgling actor, bit roles in "The Cry Baby Killer" and "The Little Shop of Horrors" the only ones to his credit, Nicholson watched Hundley play for the Lakers.

The two never talked extensively, though, until about six years ago, when West picked Hundley up at a Los Angeles-area airport and took to him to the funeral for longtime Laker play-by-play voice Chick Hearn.

"I came outside afterward, and they were all standing outside — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and all these ex-Laker players. And Jack's standing right there in the middle of them," said Hundley, who got his start in broadcasting as a partner to Hearn with the Lakers.

"Beautiful day. Sun's out. About 85 degrees," Hundley recalled as if it were yesterday. "I walked up there to (Nicholson), and I said, 'Hi Jack, I'm Rod Hundley with the Utah Jazz.' And he said, "(Expletive) Hot Rod.' Gave me a little dirty word. Then he high-fived me. I said to myself, 'Jack Nicholson knows who I am. I can't believe it."'

Now the two talk like long-lost friends, especially during halftime of Jazz-Laker games.

"He wants to talk about the Lakers, and what he's thinking about the game," Hundley said. "I think he's the best there in the business. I tell him that too — 'You're the best.'

"And he just laughs."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com