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LAKERS NOTEBOOK: LAKERS ASSISTANT WINTER OK AFTER HOSPITAL CHECK.

Byline: Howard Beck Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA - Assistant coach Tex Winter was taken to a local hospital Sunday afternoon after choking on a sandwich and experiencing an irregular heartbeat after the Lakers' game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Winter was taken by ambulance from First Union Center to Methodist Hospital for observation and tests but was sitting up and feeling fine, Lakers publicist John Black said. Winter hoped to rejoin the team in time for this morning's visit to the White House.

``We think he'll be fine,'' Black said.

Winter, who turns 80 next month, has been sick for about a month, with what he believed was a cold. He recently was diagnosed with walking pneumonia but decided Friday to join the Lakers on this five-game, nine-day road trip.

One of the game's great innovators, Winter has been a mentor and assistant to coach Phil Jackson for more than a decade, in Chicago and L.A. But the travel schedule had become difficult for him, and this season Winter was replaced as a full-time assistant by Kurt Rambis.

Winter sits behind the bench at home games and still makes occasional road trips but primarily works with players during practice.

Winter choked while eating a Philly cheesesteak sandwich in the visiting coaches' locker room after the game and continued to have breathing difficulties. He was examined by the 76ers' team orthopedist, who diagnosed the irregular heartbeat. More tests were to be conducted by a cardiologist at the hospital.

``It's probably nothing, but obviously we're taking all the precautions,'' Black said. ``They want to take him to the hospital and check him out further.''

Winter was sitting up on the stretcher as he was placed in the ambulance, accompanied by Lakers assistant general manager Jim Buss. The rest of the team left by bus for Washington.

--Vacation: Sunday's loss dropped the Lakers percentage points behind Dallas, meaning Don Nelson, not Jackson, draws All-Star game coaching duties. Jackson, who has coached three All-Star games, has often derided the event as an individual showcase that he'd rather avoid.

The Lakers' poor play saved Jackson from that burden.

``Players aren't the only ones who need a break,'' Rick Fox said. ``He's had his share of opportunities in that venue. So hopefully, he comes back rejuvenated.''

--Bushwhacked: Bryant said he's looking forward to this morning's White House ceremony honoring the Lakers for last year's championship.

``Maybe I'll show the president how to eat a pretzel,'' Bryant quipped. ``Being from Philadelphia, pretzels are the thing, man.''

--Sleepwalking: Jackson wouldn't pin the loss on the early start (9 a.m. PST) and coast-to-coast travel, though before tipoff he called it ``almost an impossible situation'' for players.

``They had to be up at 5:30 their time this morning,'' he said. ``For most of them it's at least 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning before they go to sleep, and that means their circadian rhythms are probably putting them in a deeper sleep at 4 in the morning this time. Which means they might have gotten a few moments of R.E.M. sleep and they're back up at it. So it's a difficult challenge.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 28, 2002
Words:525
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