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NBA Lakers just happy to be safe after rough flight home



Published: Fri, January 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The team went through a scary landing ordeal upon returning from Denver.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich was still shook up before Thursday night's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, some 17 hours after the team plane from Denver malfunctioned before landing safely.

"I'm just happy I've got the chance to be here today," he said.

The charter flight to Los Angeles from Denver following a 95-83 loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night was nearing the ground, about to land, when it suddenly soared upward, Tomjanovich said.

Lakers spokesman John Black said the problem involved a wing flap. An auxiliary system eventually kicked in, enabling a safe but rocky landing about 50 minutes after the plane almost touched down the first time.

"It seemed like a lifetime," Tomjanovich said. "We saw we were going farther and farther away from the airport. ... Your mind starts working on you."

What the pilot did

Tomjanovich said at one point, the pilot of the reconfigured 727 left the cockpit with a flashlight to check out the wing.

"They went to a backup system," the coach said. "When we came down, it was like Christmas -- all the red lights."

Tomjanovich referred to the many fire trucks waiting on the runway.

John Black, the team's director of public relations, said there were about 50 vehicles waiting when the plane landed about 1:30 a.m.

"I was sleeping. I didn't know anything about it," Lakers guard Chucky Atkins said.

"I didn't even know [the fire trucks] were for us."

Forward Jumaine Jones said much the same thing.

Rookie guard Sasha Vujacic said he didn't realize what was going on, either.

"Better not to know," he said with a smile.




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