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LAKERS NOTEBOOK: BULLISH MAVS JOIN RIVALS CLUB.

Byline: Howard Beck Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO -- It's not that the Lakers need another rivalry, what with Portland, San Antonio, Utah and Sacramento all vying for grudge matches throughout the season. But the Dallas Mavericks, who visit Staples Center tonight, are bullying their way onto the list, whether the Lakers want them there or not.

Dallas seems an unlikely rival. The Mavs have beaten the Lakers just once in the last five years and haven't had a winning season in 11 years. But they qualify for consideration because of the actions of their coach and their owner.

Mavs coach Don Nelson helped popularize the Hack-a-Shaq tactic of intentionally fouling Shaquille O'Neal to make him shoot foul shots. O'Neal has never forgiven Nelson for that.

Owner Mark Cuban's list of offenses runs longer. Last season, he capped off the Mavericks' season-ending victory over the Lakers - Dallas' first since 1995 - with a ridiculous postgame celebration at Reunion Arena.

Then Cuban helped foil the Lakers' attempts to acquire Christian Laettner from Detroit and later snagged the forward-center himself.

And while Cuban was spending lavishly on his team and acquiring every available body, he took pot shots at Lakers management for penny-pinching to avoid the luxury tax. That touched off a week-long debate, via the press, with Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

Cuban often travels with his team, so he and Jackson might get the chance to renew that discussion tonight.

On top of all of that, the Mavericks happen to have their best team in a decade and should make the playoffs, setting up a potential first- or second-round meeting with the Lakers in the spring.

``It should be a real interesting game,'' Jackson said. ``Dallas is playing well, they've turned themselves around, and I understand he (Cuban) has been traveling with the team. And I'm looking forward to the resurgence of the Dallas Mavericks.''

And a resurgence of his verbal melee with Cuban? ``Oh, we'll see what it brings,'' Jackson said.

--Bench Rider: J.R. Rider played a season-low two minutes Friday against the Spurs, but this time the short stint was not a disciplinary measure.

``I just thought that we needed to have some real concise execution out there,'' Jackson said, ``and he's still a little bit of a novice out there in what we're trying to do in situations where we get overplayed. We had a lot of ball pressure and we needed some guards out there, ballhandlers out there that really understood what we had to accomplish in getting into an operational space.''

Rider has been frustrated with his playing time, so Jackson sought to reassure him afterward.

``I went to him after the game and told him, just confirmed with him, that you're still in my plans, but this is that kind of game,'' Jackson said.

The Rider situation has calmed down since his late arrival and subsequent blowups Tuesday and Wednesday. An L.A.-based NBA security official is, however, documenting Rider's recent threat toward reporters and will be filing a report with the commissioner's office.

--Scorefest: Kobe Bryant's 43-point effort Friday raised his average to 27.9 points, within eight-tenths of a point of league-leading Jerry Stackhouse of Detroit. O'Neal (25.8) ranks sixth in the league.

The Lakers pair could become just the fifth set of teammates since 1971-72 to finish in the top 10 in scoring and combine for 50-plus points per game. They could also become just the fourth pair of teammates to finish in the top five.

The last Laker duo to finish in the top 10 was Gail Goodrich (fifth/25.9) and Jerry West (seventh/25.8) in 1971-72.

LAKERS vs. DALLAS

Tipoff: 6:30 p.m., Staples Center.

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net; 570-AM, 1330-AM (Spanish).

Lakers (12-5) update: They haven't lost at home since Nov. 1, winning eight straight at Staples Center. That streak gets several tests this week, with Dallas, Philadelphia and Seattle visiting.

Mavericks (11-6) update: They're halfway through a four-game road trip, which began with a loss Thursday at Portland. Coach Don Nelson missed that game to have a biopsy of his prostate, and ex-Lakers coach Del Harris filled in. Nelson returned to the bench for Saturday's game at Golden State. The Mavs have been slowed lately by injuries to key reserves Hubert Davis (groin strain) and Greg Buckner (sprained foot).

- Howard Beck

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 3, 2000
Words:736
Previous Article:CAN RENEWED SONICS KEEP CURRENT BOOM?
Next Article:KINGS NOTEBOOK: FISET BACK; NOW WHO'S NO. 1?


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