Work in Sports
Notebook: Croshere takes it to Lakers
Posted: Saturday June 17, 2000 01:22 AM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose shot the Indiana Pacers to a big lead in Game 5. Austin Croshere helped keep that lead large in the second half with his offense and his toughness.
Croshere had 13 points -- all in the second half -- and nine rebounds off the bench in Indiana's 120-87 victory on Friday night. He took just three shots from the field, but he took the ball to the basket so successfully that he ended up shooting 12 free throws, making 11.
After the game, Croshere had stark words for the Lakers, who are still one victory away from a championship -- but just two losses away from a disaster.
"We wanted it more than them, simple as that," Croshere said. "There was no way they were going to win tonight."
As he did earlier in the series, Croshere dominated his matchup with Robert Horry, driving past the Los Angeles forward and rebounding over him at will in the second half.
He also played with a swagger, finishing at least two plays with meaningless dunks well after the whistle had blown. He also got in the face of his nemesis in the series, Los Angeles guard Derek Fisher, after a hard foul in the fourth quarter.
Croshere admitted he took special pleasure in humiliating Los Angeles. He was a passionate Lakers fan growing up in Santa Monica, but now he thinks the Pacers have what it takes to celebrate a title in California.
"They had us on the mat, and they let us up tonight," Croshere said. "Our confidence is really going up. We have to realize we're just two games from a championship."
He's not 'Air' yet
In the wake of Kobe Bryant's breakout performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, he was repeatedly compared to Michael Jordan.
Bryant's blend of skill, grace and impeccable timing definitely bring Jordan to Phil Jackson's mind, but he isn't ready to equate his 21-year-old superstar with the game's greatest player.
"I saw Michael play maybe 115 playoff games. He probably had 90 games at the level [Bryant] had this one," the Los Angeles Lakers coach said. "Not to take anything away from Kobe, but we got used to the way Michael played and the level he played at.
"Kobe is young. He's probably a better player at 21 than Michael was at 21. He has a wonderful future, and we hope that he can fill those mighty big shoes. The chances are, he [won't]."
Jackson and Jordan won six championships during the 1990s with the Chicago Bulls. They both left the team in 1998 after winning the sixth title. When the Bulls won their first rings, in 1991, Bryant was 12 years old.
Bryant's youth gives him the edge over Jordan in one category at least. Jordan was 28 when he won his first title.
"[Bryant] is a special player, but he's still going to be a terrific player," Jackson said. "He's got a lot of years to develop into that role."
Salley's ringsJohn Salley doesn't often leave the Lakers' bench these days, but the veteran big man is in position to make basketball history.
Salley, who left three years of retirement and a cushy broadcasting job with NBC to serve as Shaquille O'Neal's backup this season, can become the first NBA player to win titles with three teams if the Lakers finish off the Indiana Pacers.
He was an original member of the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys squads that won championships in 1989 and 1990, and he also got a ring as a backup on the Chicago Bulls' 1996 squad. Many players have won titles in two cities, but Salley is the first to be in the right place at three right times.
"It couldn't happen to a better person," Salley said with a grin. "I couldn't find anybody else I would want this to happen to."
Salley played in 45 games during the regular season, and after playing sparingly in the Western Conference playoffs, he saw a grand total of nine minutes of action in the finals' first four games.
Though Salley often plays only in emergencies -- like a few seconds of overtime in Game 4 after Shaquille O'Neal fouled out, for instance -- he makes contributions to the Lakers in the locker room and on the practice court.
As befitting his media experience, he is also the Lakers' most acerbic, quotable player. Perhaps no seldom-used backup center in Finals history has done as many interviews as Salley has during the past 10 days.
"I just enjoy every day," Salley said. "I'm just glad to be out here and be a part of these guys. I'm glad Phil wanted me here. It sure beats the hell out of being in the media."
Loose ballsFor the second straight game day, torrential rains pounded Indianapolis. Downtown streets flooded, and pregame pep rallies around Conseco Fieldhouse got soaked. ... Indiana coach Larry Bird said Friday that he thought his team got better and better in each of the series' four games. ... Game 4, won 120-118 by the Lakers in overtime, was the highest-scoring playoff game since Houston's 125-120 victory over Minnesota on April 29, 1997.
Quote of the day"No, no. We're down 3-1. You want to get the hell out of here after you win." -- Bird, when asked if he would consider returning to coaching next season under any circumstances, such as a Pacers' victory in the series