LAKERS NOTEBOOK: LAKERS' ROAD TO RUIN?; HARRIS HAS LAST LAUGH.
Del Harris can't forget the Lakers' most disappointing road trip, the one that concluded in early March, the one that started the rumors of his demise as coach. So he took time out to gloat after the Lakers' Tuesday win in Dallas, which assured them of the best road record in the NBA.
``I guess we'll blow our own horn a little bit here,'' he said. ``We just ended up with the best record in the league on the road, and I think that's something our team can be very proud of.''
The Lakers' 28-13 road record is the second best in franchise history. No other NBA team will match the mark when the season concludes this weekend. The runners-up include the Jazz, Bulls and Pacers, who could reach 27 road wins, and the Sonics, Suns and Heat, who could win 26.
Of the 28 wins away from the Forum, seven came in the past three weeks, as the Lakers swept, consecutively, a four-game series and a three-game series. But it was the 3-3 road trip from late February to early March that started the rumors of Harris' dismissal.
``Just to think, about a few months ago, they wanted to fire me because we only went .500 on the toughest road trip we had, six games in nine days,'' he said. ``And the irony of it is just inescapable, that we would actually end up having the best road record in the league.''
For the players, the success on the road means a confidence boost in the playoffs, particularly if they have to face Seattle or Utah without home-court advantage.
``It says we're mentally tougher than people give us credit for,'' Kobe Bryant said.
Not everyone was jumping for joy, though. ``I'd rather have the best record than the best road record,'' Eddie Jones said.
Sound of silence: In the wake of Nick Van Exel's two-game suspension for fighting, the Lakers couldn't help but wonder why his punishment was so severe for a fight in which no one appeared to land a punch.
And they will have to keep wondering. An NBA spokesman said Wednesday that league disciplinarian and senior vice president Rod Thorn would not elaborate on his printed statement, which cited Van Exel for ``engaging in an altercation that spilled into the front row of seats.''
But the punishment was enough to prompt Lakers executive Jerry West to issue his own prepared statement: ``We're very disappointed with the decision and disagree with it, but we will abide by the league's ruling.''
Dribbles: Shaquille O'Neal's rebounding average is 11.4 per game, fifth best in the NBA, but you won't find him on the official leader charts when the season ends Sunday. The mind-numbing statistical formulas used by the NBA and Elias Sports Bureau require O'Neal to play in 70 games or amass 800 rebounds to qualify.
O'Neal missed 22 games early this season and will miss the games-played mark by 10. As for the rebound total, he would need a mere 139 in the next two games to qualify.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 16, 1998|
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