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Ignoring trade winds

NBA FINALSGame 3: 9 p.m. tonight in Inglewood, Calif.

Series: Tied at 1-1.

TV/Radio: Ch. 8 and WFNS-910

Maybe there is no other way to tap the talent inside Byron Scott. Maybe manufactured paranoia is the only viable fuel for the resiliency needed to survive eight years with the Los Angeles Lakers.

What else can he think when he hears the whispers that the world is against him and has dismissed him as a one-dimensional offensive firebrand who feeds off his teammates?

If he is considered a key to the Lakers' playoff chances, if his outside shots so often are the difference between winning and losing, then why does he get the feeling that the team is constantly trying to get rid of him?

Scott insists he is not paranoid, but all he knows is what he hears and what he thinks.

What he hears is that on a team of stars, he is perhaps the most replaceable. What he thinks is that less than a year ago the Lakers were trying to trade him.

Which is all quite ironic as the Lakers prepare for Game 3 of the NBA Finals tonight against the Chicago Bulls at the Great Western Forum with the series tied 1-1. After playing his way back to full physical strength as the season wore on, Scott has been indispensable through the playoffs the past few weeks.

Until now. Averaging 15.2 points and shooting 20-of-35 from three-point distance in the playoffs, Scott has totaled 14 points in the first two games of the championship series.

His lack of offensive production becomes even more glaring because of Scott's ballyhooed defensive matchup with Michael Jordan. Jordan is averaging 34.5 points and 12.5 assists and is shooting 29-of-42 from the floor in the series.

It is times like these when Scott convinces himself that everybody resents his success, that he is living off the greatness of teammates Magic Johnson and James Worthy, and before that, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes.

"It has been difficult because you know Magic is going to do well, you know James (Worthy) is going to do well, you knew Kareem was going to do well, and I'd have to hit my outside shot or all the defenses would sag down inside," Scott said. "I've had to deal the last eight years with, "You're the key to us winning.' I always just shrugged my shoulders because I never think of it that way."

As for his lack of offense against the Bulls, Scott provides a ready-made answer.

"I'm just not getting the shots (only six field-goal attempts in 63 minutes)," he said. "If you have any ill feelings about not getting shots or not getting a look in the offense, as long as you win and get an opportunity to win a championship, you'll sacrifice your game for that."

When the Lakers win, "It's easier to accept anything. Winning solves all the problems."

But when you lose, as the Lakers did in Game 2, "I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me. Everybody wants more shots. Everybody wants more playing time."

After Scott tore up his left hamstring before the start of the first game of the NBA Finals two years ago _ an injury that doomed the Lakers' chances for a third title in a row _ he was asked to sit out much of last season while he recovered. A player with more confidence in his status with the team might have accepted the offer. Scott turned it down.

"It was difficult to know I was out there and not able to give 100 percent," Scott said of playing an entire season with pain. "But I didn't want to sit out, either. I would have had to fight to get back in shape and fight to get back into the lineup. I'd have to reprove myself all over again."

And after the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs by Phoenix last spring, Scott felt uncomfortable once again.

"I told my wife if there's a year when I'll probably get traded, this might be the year," Scott said. "I felt that way as soon as we lost to Phoenix. As long as I can remember, I've been the scapegoat. I really thought this might be the year."

When he came to the Lakers in 1983, it was in a trade for Norm Nixon, a favorite of both the fans and the players.

"The trade wasn't very popular," Scott said. "The situation got a little out of hand. They didn't know me. All they knew was that they'd lost a friend of theirs."

Through much adversity, Scott is confident his offense will return before the series is over. Scott sometimes struggles in the Lakers' low-post offense, which features Sam Perkins, Worthy and Vlade Divac and virtually ignores the perimeter shot.

"All those years that we had the great fastbreak teams, we had a potent halfcourt team," Scott said. "Nobody really realized we had Kareem and James in the post. It's the same scenario, but different players."

The same theme rings true for Scott, who has his hands full with Jordan and doesn't need the additional burden of suffering offensive burnout in the championship series.