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A bear of a test

George's starting status might turn on play against Grizzlies

By Ross Siler, Staff Writer

Once the forgotten small forward in a lineup loaded with future Hall of Famers in October, Devean George in effect will be given a one-game audition tonight to keep his starting job with the Lakers.

With the Lakers leaving Tuesday on a three-game trip, coach Phil Jackson said he and his assistants discussed the possibility of bringing George off the bench after he failed to score in an 88-85 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

But Jackson has decided to start George tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies to see if the 26-year-old can snap out of his month-long slump.

"Some of my coaches have asked me about that," Jackson said. "They think they would like ample opportunity for him to go back to the bench and regroup himself and then come back out again.

"I have a tendency to think that he can work it out on his own. And I want to give him that opportunity here and provide that for him -- at least in this first game."

George went 0 for 10 against the Suns and failed to get a rebound until the fourth quarter. He is shooting just 29.1 percent this month and is averaging 5.9 points a game.

George started the year ranked among the NBA's leaders in field-goal percentage. But his production has declined since Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal suffered injuries. George said Tuesday his frustration is growing.

"I'm looking at each game as being a fresh start for me," George said. "I'm trying to get out there and do something and try to redeem myself because I've been playing so bad."

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