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Lakers express sympathy for George Karl

April 8, 2010 |  4:33 pm

It's an issue that transcends sports and even the increasing animosity between the Lakers and Nuggets. Surely, the Lakers (55-22) will be geared up for tonight's game against Denver, especially with the chance to officially clinch the top spot in the Western Conference. Without a doubt the Nuggets (51-27) will be up for this game too, still remaining bitter about the Lakers eliminating them in last year's Western Conference finals as well as in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.

But with Denver Coach George Karl remaining on the sideline because of his cancer treatment, it's something that has struck a chord among everyone around the NBA.

ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky recently pondered whether Karl's situation changes the context of the Lakers-Nuggets heated matchup in any way, knowing that such a serious life-and-death issue bodes an incredible importance over something so minuscule as a basketball game. Lakers forward Lamar Odom downplayed that notion, saying, "Nothing against him, and I know he's going through it, but we kind of worry about the Lakers." Odom's response, in spirit, seems to be more that he'd rather not speak on the Nuggets' behalf on what they're going through when he's not there, but there's no question the Lakers feel for them.

That was apparent in the last matchup where Lakers Coach Phil Jackson wore a pin labeled "Hoops for St. Jude," which Jackson told reporters is "concerning George Karl's treatment for cancer."

The Lakers have gone through a somewhat similar issue with Tex Winter, who had stopped being an active consultant with the Lakers after suffering a stroke last April. Bryant, who affectionately nicknamed Winter "Yoda" for his teachings with the triangle offense, acknowledged he's missed his presence.

"He's feisty and brutally honest about everything," Bryant said of Winter. "He's great."

Of course, some of those emotions will be put on hold, or at least channeled onto the basketball court once tip starts tonight. The Lakers expect the Nuggets to use Karl's absence as a rallying cry, though they have gone 9-6 under acting coach Adrian Dantley. There's also the absence of Denver forward Kenyon Martin, who has missed the last 17 games because of a left knee injury.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com


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