LOS ANGELES - I just finished a conversation with Joe Maloof, who was at the Palms in Las Vegas, and among other things, he is as curious as everyone else about what David Stern plans to say.
Joe admitted that he had been dodging the media the past few days - mostly to avoid saying something imprudent, which he has been known to do - but decided to speak out after being barraged by e-mails and phone calls. And, in typical Joe Maloof fashion, he became increasingly animated as the conversation continued. (Ok, I keep pushing to gain a truer sense of his feelings.)
Clearly, he still believes the Kings were robbed and is still angry about the outcome. But he repeatedly labeled any potential manipulation as "implausible, impossible." Coming from an owner who runs a business in Las Vegas, it sounded pretty convincing. One thing that was pretty funny: He couldn't resist a dig at Phil Jackson, the coach he tried to hire at the end of 2005-06 season, one might recall. Well. If you can't beat them, hire them, right?
A few quick pre-game thoughts
Jackson, who is never shy about tweaking his players, defended Pau Gasol against suggestions that his starting center was, well, soft. "I think that would be the reputation Pau came to us with," said the Lakers coach, "but he's constantly risen to the occasion in every series we've gone through this year. The last game (three) obviously was not a great game for him, but we believe that he's going to have another real good game for us. I won't touch the soft (stuff), though."
Rondo set to go
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was listed in the starting lineup, but coach Doc Rivers planned to keep a close watch on his mobility. Rondo's best asset is his quickness, and if he is hampered by his sore ankle, Rivers says he will go back to Eddie House, the one-time Kings guard who happens to be Mike Bibby's brother-in-law.