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LAKERS NOTEBOOK: SHAQ, KOBE ALL GOOD.

Byline: Howard Beck Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS - The question hardly arises anymore, which itself is a strong indicator the state of Shaq and Kobe never has been better. And when Lakers coach Phil Jackson was quizzed on the subject Wednesday, for the first time in a long time, he was able to answer with a smile instead of a furrowed brow.

Even Jackson didn't anticipate Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal would forge this happy partnership in the wake of last season's well-chronicled feud.

``They enjoy each other's company, they're having a good time together. And that makes for a good harmony,'' Jackson said.

The kind of harmony that produces a combined 51 points a game and a league-best 26-6 record.

``I just think there's this mutual respect for each other's game,'' Jackson said. ``It just kind of melded for them at some period and they've just been pretty level-headed about the whole thing. I don't think there's any feeling one way or the other about who shoots it when and how. There's never been any comments to me this year at all.''

Bryant has been more light-hearted and open with teammates this season. O'Neal has been his same old gregarious self. Even when things were at their worst, the pair worked magic on the court. Now they're having fun off the court as well.

``I compared it the other day to like a dog and a cat,'' Jackson said. ``The dog goes around and makes the cat hump its back and spit a little bit, and then all of a sudden when they get to be friends, the cat's got to bounce around all over the dog, kind of mess around with him. And that's kind of the way it appears to be, with Kobe being the cat that's going to bounce around having a good time.''

--Crash course: Bryant has been playing more under control this season, generally avoiding driving into crowds or attempting anything so fancy that he might get maimed in the process. And then there was that 360-degree dunk Tuesday at Detroit. Bryant was off balance when he completed it and dropped straight down on his tailbone.

Bryant was able to laugh it off, and Jackson tried not to criticize. No harm, no frown.

``I thought that was a little bit excessive,'' Jackson said, ``but he came out of that OK. But that's how you jam your feet and stuff like that. It's also the way you sell tennis shoes, I suppose.''

Bryant said such flashy plays are purely spontaneous.

``Things just come to me sometimes,'' he said.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 10, 2002
Words:431
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