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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Kobe all business as he tries to bring title back to L.A.

LOS ANGELES (AP) Magic Johnson had his magnetic smile. Michael Jordan soared to the basket with his tongue hanging out. Kobe Bryant is baring his teeth and scowling in these NBA Finals.

News photo
Game face: Kobe Bryant of the Lakers is determined to help his team beat the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. AP PHOTO

His young daughters don't think much of Daddy's attitude around the house, calling him Grumpy, as in the Seven Dwarfs. His media sessions aren't exactly packing in the crowds, either.

Bryant makes no apologies for his no-fun demeanor.

"I just think it's been building," he said Friday. "I've been pacing myself all year waiting for these playoffs to come around. The table is set."

Bryant and Derek Fisher, the Los Angeles Lakers' co-captains, talked on the bench during practice while their teammates enjoyed themselves on the floor.

The Lakers exhaled a day after routing the Orlando Magic 100-75 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Game 2 is Sunday at Staples Center.

Much of Bryant's laser focus is the result of the Lakers losing to Detroit and Boston in their previous finals appearances in 2004 and last year.

He detests losing, and at 30, he is more conscious that winning championships is the bedrock in building the legacy of a player who wants to be among the greatest.

"I just want it so bad," he said. "This time around we're just really locked in."

Coach Phil Jackson said that behind closed doors Bryant is just as quiet and focused.

"You have to stay driven and motivated, and I think it's really important that he takes that leadership role for this team," he said.

Bryant joined an exclusive club with 40 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in Game 1. Only Shaquille O'Neal, Jordan and Jerry West before him posted those numbers in a finals game. His points were a career-high in the finals, bettering the 36 he scored against Boston last year.

Bryant's clipped responses and nearly permanent poker face emerged early this week in a sure sign that the finals were near. But his grimace and jutting jaw were new for Game 1.

"This is the first year it's been prominent, extremely noticeable," Fisher said.

Not that Bryant's facial expression compares to the famously maniacal look of Jack Nicholson, the Lakers' No. 1 fan, in "The Shining."

"I don't know if anything can compare to that one," Fisher said. "Even for me as a kid that was a pretty scary moment."

Smith dies at 60

HARTFORD , Conn. (AP) Randy Smith, a blindingly fast All-Star with the Buffalo Braves in the 1970s who once held the NBA record for consecutive games played, died while working out on a treadmill. He was 60.

He had a massive heart attack Thursday while exercising at the Connecticut casino where he worked, son-in-law Lekan Bashua said on Friday.

Jack Ramsay, Smith's coach in Buffalo, called the 190-cm guard the best athlete he ever coached.

"He had stamina, great speed and developed into a very good player," Ramsay said Friday from the NBA Finals in Los Angeles. "And was so fun to be around. There was not a bad day in Randy's life."

Smith was drafted by the Braves in the seventh round in 1971 and averaged more than 13 points in his rookie season. He went on to play 13 years in the NBA and appeared in 906 consecutive games from 1972-83. His mark was broken by A.C. Green in 1997.

At the 1978 All-Star Game, Smith — playing alongside the likes of Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Dave Cowens and Pete Maravich — scored 27 points and was the Most Valuable Player.

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