INDIANAPOLIS — One day after their Game 3 loss to Indiana on Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

During Monday media interviews held on the court at Conseco Fieldhouse, Lakers forward Glen Rice was busy complaining that he sat as long as he did Sunday, and that Lakers coach Phil Jackson did not treat him as L.A.'s second offensive option, even though he is usually No. 3 behind center Shaquille O'Neal and guard Kobe Bryant, who missed the game due to a sprained ankle.

"It's obvious. It shouldn't really be a discussion," Rice said. "It's pretty much written down in ink . . . anytime your second option goes out, and you've got a so-called third option, he should move up to the second option, shouldn't he?

"When you have me involved, it becomes a much easier game for us, and it's hard for me to imagine why it can't happen," added Rice, who struggled Sunday, shooting 3-of-9 from the floor. "

"I know my game, and I wish a lot of times that I could go out there and play the way that I'm capable of playing, but unfortunately I've been forced to be the third option here on this team. I try to go out there and deal with that.

"I try to stay as focused as possible, and it gets frustrating at times, because I know I can do a lot more for the team . . . I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't frustrated. Any player who is confident in his abilities and is looking at the game on the bench in the fourth quarter, is frustrated."

Jackson, meanwhile, was in an interview room addressing the very issue.

Well, sort of.

"I have no comment for that," Jackson said. "That's the way he saw the game."

O'Neal checked in with an opinion of his own, and seemed to side somewhat with Rice: "I was a disappointed a little bit," he said, "that our best shooter was on the bench."

And in the Pacers camp . . . things aren't all rosy there, either.

Indiana coach Larry Bird has been all over Pacers star Reggie Miller for, of all things, playing with too much emotion.

"His emotions were pouring out," Bird said of a Game 3 incident in which Miller tried to rescue teammate Mark Jackson, who had gotten caught up in the Lakers huddle. "You waste a lot of energy when you do that. He did get a little fatigued going down the stretch.

"It's a very emotional game," Bird said. "One thing he's got to learn is you can do that during the regular season, but in the playoffs you expend so much energy even before the game and during the game, you can't get down there and verbally get into something, or pulling people around . . . You have to save all the energy you can and forget about that stuff."

STATE OF THE LEAGUE: Plans for the NBA to start a new league, and perhaps pull the plug on a timeout, highlighted commissioner David Stern's state-of-the-league address Monday.

The NBA intends to create a minor league of its own modeled after the WNBA, and will call it the National Basketball Development League. Play is scheduled to start in November 2001, with the announcement of specific cities, team names and other details not coming until this fall.

Stern said "the 'D League,' as I think it'll come to be known, is going to be focusing on the game in smaller markets," and that it will help the NBA develop "coaches, assistant coaches, marketing, public relations — a real human resources pool . . . we (also) will be developing basketball players as well in our own particular way."

It is for that reason that the NBA does not plan to meld with an already existing minor-league such as the CBA.

Players would have to be 20 years old by Nov. 1 of the year in which they would compete in the NBDL, but younger high school players and college dropouts drafted and then cut by NBA teams may also be able to play.

Stern also said the NBA was happy with rules changes initiated this season to open up the game and promote increased scoring.

No major changes are planned for next season, though NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said the league likely will recommend to its board of governors that teams be allowed to use one less timeout so that fourth quarters do not drag on for as long as they seem to now.

MISC.: Stern said league-wide attendance was up about 1 percent this season, but regular-season and playoff TV ratings are down, reflective of a general prime-time television trend for prime time TV. One solution: Stern said Saturday afternoon/evening games on NBA will reduced from 10 to about five for next season. . . . It turns out Travis Knight of the Los Angeles Lakers is not the first Utah prep product to play in the NBA Finals since Arnie Ferrin in 1949, after all. Former Jazz player Fred Roberts, a product of Bingham High and BYU, played for the Boston Celtics when they lost to the Lakers in the 1987 Finals . . . Remember the Boston Globe report regarding supposed trade talks that would bring former University of Utah star Keith Van Horn to Boston from New Jersey as part of a multi-player deal that would also send Antoine Walker from the Celtics to the Nets? Well, forget about it. There's nothing to it," Celtics coach/president Rick Pitino told the Boston Herald.


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