Shaquille O'Neal says the Lakers will win the Western Conference championship if they play smart. His teammates, however, weren't talking about a mental approach Thursday. Game 1 with the Utah Jazz is slated for Saturday afternoon in the Delta Center.
"They play a physical game. They've been playing that way ever since I've been in the league," said Eddie Jones, who thinks Utah pushes and shoves 99.9 percent of the time. "And they're not going to stop now."As expected, Karl Malone was the center of discussion. Lakers coach Del Harris accused the Jazz forward of intentionally kicking opponents when he drives to the basket. The remarks came Wednesday after Harris watched film of Utah's series with San Antonio.
"You've got to stand up. I think guys have to knock (Malone) down - do something," Jones said. "I saw it in every (Jazz/Spurs) game."
Several of the Lakers even came up with creative ways to avoid a delivered kick from the Mailman.
Rick Fox suggested he and his teammates duck when Malone drives down the lane. Kobe Bryant offered a different approach.
"You just bat (his leg) out of the way and keep on truckin'," he said.
Harris, who started the furor, expects a physical series - though not of the brass knuckles variety.
Bryant agreed. The teenager best known for shooting air balls in L.A.'s series-ending loss to Utah in Game 5 of last year's conference semifinals said the Lakers have something else on their minds.
"Everybody labels us as the team of the future," Bryant explained. "(The Jazz) are the best in the Western Conference right now. All we want to do is dethrone them."
The Lakers will practice at the Great Western Forum again Friday before flying to Salt Lake City.