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Shaq Takes Shot at Coach Karl

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It's getting personal between Shaquille O'Neal and George Karl.

After Monday night's 106-92 victory by the Seattle SuperSonics over the Los Angeles Lakers in the opener of a Western Conference semifinal playoff series, O'Neal lashed out at Karl, Seattle's coach.

Game 2 will be held Wednesday night.

"I don't understand how a person cries before a series even started," O'Neal said, referring to comments by Karl that the Lakers center was sometimes guilty of throwing elbows and traveling.

"He looks like a woman coach sometimes. I guess he's just trying to get into certain people's heads, but it won't work with me," O'Neal said.

"Like a woman who coaches and cries all the time. He can't get in my head. He's a crybaby."

On Tuesday during practice, Karl was asked for his reaction.

"There's some great women coaches in this game," Karl said. "I'm thinking about wearing an apron tomorrow night.

"But I'm not going to play amateur psychologist," Karl added. "I'm sure you all (reporters) do that very well."

In Game 1 between the Pacific Division foes, the Sonics won despite a 27-point, 11-rebound by the 7-foot-1, 315-pound O'Neal. O'Neal is averaging 28.6 points a game, the best postseason average of his career.

"I think Shaq's a great player," Karl said. "I really think what (coach) Del Harris said is truthful. He's probably the MVP of the league. He's had an unbelievable year.

"We've got to worry about every moment of our life about how to beat him and how to stop him and how to create problems for him."

Karl and O'Neal have a history. During the 1994 All-Star game, when O'Neal was with Orlando, he got mad at Karl for double-teaming him aggressively. Karl was the West coach and O'Neal was playing for the East.

O'Neal said double teams shouldn't be used during All-Star games.

During practice Tuesday, O'Neal didn't want to talk about Karl.

"I ate too many Frosted Flakes," he said. "I don't remember what I said last night."

In Game 1, the Lakers were whistled for 26 fouls to 22 for the Sonics.

Before Monday night's game, Harris complained that Karl was criticizing the officials before the series had started.

A day later, Harris didn't want to talk about his center's postgame remarks about Karl.

"I have no comment," he said. "I don't want to know anything about it."

The Lakers' Nick Van Exel said the game was decided in the fourth quarter by his team's 5-for-16 shooting, not the officials. Van Exel was 2-for-7 in the final period.

"The officials didn't affect the game," he said. "The Sonics' deense affected the game."

Gary Payton, who led the Sonics with 25 points in the series opener, is a good friend of O'Neal, a former Olympic teammate. He also has a strong affection for Karl, so he's not taking sides.

"I don't know what's going on with that," he said. "That's their thing."

After Game 2, the series switches to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 Friday night and Sunday. If necessary, the teams return to Seattle for Game 5 next Tuesday.

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