Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Laker's Devean George wants to face the Kings

AP , EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIASACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIAAND NEW YORK

Lakers guard kobe Bryant, center, celebrates with teammates along with Devean George, front, after their win over the Spurs in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal Saturday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

The heck with going home to Minneapolis and spending time with family and friends. Los Angeles Lakers forward Devean George hopes the Sacramento Kings eliminate the Minnesota Timberwolves from the playoffs.

"I would rather play the team we have homecourt advantage against," George said Monday, expressing a different point of view from several of his teammates who say it doesn't matter who the Lakers face in the Western Conference finals.

Shooting for their fourth championship in five years, the Lakers earned a berth in the conference finals Saturday by beating defending champion San Antonio 88-76 to eliminate the Spurs.

The Lakers became the eighth NBA team to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two by winning the final four.

The Timberwolves and Kings play Game 7 of their series Wednesday in Minnesota. The conference finals begin Friday at the Target Center if the Timberwolves win or in Los Angeles if the Kings advance.

"If we can avoid having to steal a [road] game every series, I think that would be better," George said.

The Spurs had homecourt advantage, but the Lakers won Game 5 in San Antonio 74-73 thanks to Derek Fisher's jumper as time expired.

Lost in the postgame shuffle was that George scored a career playoff-high 16 points.

George grew up in Minneapolis and attended Augsburg, Minnesota, College before the Lakers made him their first-round draft choice in 1999.

"I was a basketball fan. I liked the Timberwolves when I was coming up," he said.

George's NBA career has been up-and-down.

Lately, it's been up.

He regained his starting job from injured Rick Fox in Game 4 of the Lakers' first-round series against Houston, and totaled 26 points in the last two games against the Spurs after getting only 37 in the first nine games of the postseason.

George shot 11-of-22 including 8-of-16 from 3-point range in the first nine games and has gone 8-of-13 including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc since then.

What changed?

"Having more opportunities, more shots," he said. "Throughout the series, I don't think I shot the ball poorly. I had more attempts [the last two games]. My confidence was never really down."

The 26-year-old George realizes he's starting with four of the best players in the game -- Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton.

"I'm the low man on the totem pole," George said with a smile. "I was watching the other day, they were saying the guys out there on the court were the four studs and Devean George. That's the way it is."

The Lakers went through a light practice Monday. Bryant was sent home early with a sore throat.

"It was tough to be here," Fisher said, alluding to the Lakers not knowing who they're playing next. "This time of year, it's about having a purpose. It's tough to focus the same way. We'll see what happens Wednesday night."

The Lakers have had a much more intense rivalry with Sacramento than Minnesota in recent years. That rivalry reached a new level two years ago when Los Angeles eliminated Sacramento in seven games in the conference finals.

The Lakers beat the Timberwolves 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs last year.

"I would think it would be a lot of fun to play the Kings again," Fisher said. "But Minnesota earned the right to have homecourt advantage in Game 7. We have an old friend over there in Mark Madsen.''

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