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ENEMY LINES an opposing team's scout sizes up the Lakers
Jack McCallum
October 27, 2003
At first glance Gary Payton and Karl Malone look out of place. They developed their games for certain spots on the floor, and the triangle offense puts them in locations where they aren't comfortable. As a result, you'll see them break from the triangle and freelance, such as when Payton goes to his trademark move of backing down smaller guards....
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October 27, 2003

Enemy Lines An Opposing Team's Scout Sizes Up The Lakers

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At first glance Gary Payton and Karl Malone look out of place. They developed their games for certain spots on the floor, and the triangle offense puts them in locations where they aren't comfortable. As a result, you'll see them break from the triangle and freelance, such as when Payton goes to his trademark move of backing down smaller guards....

The running game will be better because that's where Payton and Malone will feel free to do what comes naturally. The defense will be improved because you'll have to settle for jump shots against them. With Shaquille O'Neal protecting the basket, Payton will be able to cheat off his man and play the passing lanes....

Payton can still play tight against all but the quickest guards because he's allowed to hold and grab—the officials are intimidated by him. They know they'll get an earful from him if they call a foul, and he's such a big star that they won't eject him for mouthing off....

Malone can't move laterally anymore, but he still has the quickness and brute strength to prevent guys from getting position. He's better than anybody else in the league at knocking the ball out of their hands....

The Lakers' biggest worry could be their thin bench, though Payton [who averaged 40.1 minutes last year] and Malone [36.2] are as durable as they come. Together Payton and Malone have missed 17 games in 31 years....

Kobe Bryant is the wild card with his pending rape trial. Who knows how much he'll play? And when he does, he'll want to show that he's still the Man. But the leash is going to be tighter: What used to be a bad shot by Kobe now becomes a really bad shot because that's one less good shot for Malone, Payton or Shaq—and you know they'll all be keeping track.

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