Work in Sports
On the Court
Finals game in L.A. means celeb city
Posted: Wednesday June 07, 2000 06:31 PM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
LOS ANGELES -- Get ready for the glitterati. It's the Lakers and it's the Finals, which means the usual cast of celebrities and movie stars will be on display (along with all the latest developments in cosmetic surgery) courtside at the Staples Center on Wednesday night for Game 1.
Jack Nicholson. Denzel Washington. Jim Carrey. Pamela Anderson. Lennox Lewis. Dustin Hoffman. Penny Marshall. Glenn Frey. Dyan Cannon. Robert Shapiro. Seal. Those are just a few of the big names who regularly attend Lakers games and are expected to be at the Finals.
During halftime many of them will repair to "The Room," a small wood-paneled bar just inside the tunnel alongside Section 103. The invitation-only room features free drinks and munchies, along with the chance to schmooze with fellow stars away from all those annoying little people. "It's sort of a Who's Who of actors, actresses, studio heads," agent Leigh Steinberg told the L.A. Times. "It's the hot place to be in town."
Hey, you ought to get something extra for the $1,150 price tag of a courtside seat.
Last-minute preparationsThe Lakers and Pacers each held shootarounds Wednesday morning, with each team going over last-minute preparations for the big game. The Pacers held their practice session at the Staples Center, while the Lakers convened at their El Segundo practice facility near L.A. International Airport. The sessions were closed to the media.
So different, so much alikeOne coaches offense. The other coaches defense. Together they have 100 years combined coaching experience, and have been part of eight NBA Finals.
So it's no surprise that Lakers assistant Tex Winter and Pacers assistant Dick Harter weren't getting caught up in the hype before Game 1.
"To me the games aren't really the thing. I enjoy the practices more because that's where the game is taught," said Winter, architect of the famed triple post offense.
Lately Winter has been working with guard Kobe Bryant, trying to help him rein in his tendency to go one-on-one and instead work within a team concept. "He has talent, but he's still got a lot to learn," Winter said. "A lot of times he tries to do too much himself. Overpenetration is one of our biggest problems."
Harter, who helped craft championship defenses in Detroit and New York before joining the Pacers, similarly loves the behind-the-scenes work. He estimates he watched 50 hours of videotape from the Lakers-Blazers series.
"I'm not sure how helpful it will be for us because we don't have a Scottie Pippen or a Rasheed Wallace," Harter said. "But every little bit helps. We'll use what we can. But we know it's going to take all five guys on the court to defend this team."
Roaches and leachesOutside the Staples Center it was quiet Tuesday afternoon, except for the small cadre of Lakers fans gathered near the players' parking lot that whooped and hollered as each player arrived.
Inside, however, it was a different story.
Hundreds of media swarmed the court like insects to get quotes and comments from Lakers and Pacers players and coaches. On the first day of availability for the two teams, TV cameramen jostled with beat writers for prime position as players looked on in amazement. "More media. That's the biggest thing you've got to deal with," said Lakers forward Robert Horry, who won NBA titles with the Rockets in '94 and '95.
"That and all the people coming out of the woodwork wanting tickets. ... You've got friends that are real close to you and are saying, 'I'm coming this series.' And then they don't show up. But all of a sudden the Finals come and it's 'I'm there!' That's the biggest pain in the butt."
Good thing it wasn't GeigerWearing his trademark floppy hat, Pacers guard Reggie Miller was seated courtside before practice Tuesday, tying his shoes, when he was approached by a rather tall guy with a goatee holding a videocamera. "No. I'm done. No more questions," Miller told the reporter. "Sorry." When the man gently persisted, explaining he was from NBA Inside Stuff and he just wanted to ask him some non-basketball queries, Miller basically told him to get lost.
Miller either didn't know -- or didn't care -- but the reporter was none other than Kings reserve center Scot Pollard.
A slightly peeved Pollard later was overheard saying, "Man, I can't wait for him to come into the lane next year!"
Marty Burns covers pro basketball for CNNSI.com. Look for his columns on
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