Too bad the San Antonio Spurs didn't stomp all over the Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals. Even when they barely beat back the Minnesota Timberwolves to get here, the Lakers looked clunky and old. Losing badly to San Antonio would have made it easy for LA to shore up the weaknesses that became so apparent this season:
• Get a proper backup center. What the Lakers have been doing—simply replacing Shaquille O'Neal with forwards such as Mark Madsen and Stanislav Medvedenko—hasn't worked. They need someone big, someone who can give and take fouls as needed. • Get a fast point guard. Basically, someone who can guard the other team's point guard. For the past couple of years, the Lakers have made stars of hitherto unknown guards such as Portland's Damon Stoudamire, Sacramento's Mike Bibby, Minnesota's Troy Hudson and, most recently, San Antonio's Tony Parker. • Get an honest-to-God power forward. Guys such as A.C. Green, Horace Grant and Samaki Walker haven't cut it. The Lakers need a guy who can rebound as well as throw a little muscle around. The idea of acquiring Utah's Karl "Mailman" Malone has gone around, but my dream is that the Lakers get Miami's Brian Grant—you know, the Brian Grant who was a Laker killer when he played for the Portland Trailblazers team that nearly made it to the 2000 Finals. We're just going to say this once: Brian Grant.
Few people swim in Newport Beach's Back Bay. Fewer do so intentionally. This weekend, hundreds of hardy competitors will brave its murky waters in the Newport Beach Sprint Triathlon. Scenic bike and run courses make it all worthwhile. Newport Dunes, Jamboree & Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach, (714) 978-1528; www.pacificsportsllc.com. Sun., 6:45 a.m. $95.(Scott Giffin)