Jackson Fires Back at Stern's Comments on Criticism of Referees
OKLAHOMA CITY -- While some of it is Phil Jackson simply having fun, he still hasn't backed off in what is becoming a running battle with David Stern.
The NBA commissioner on Wednesday lashed out at NBA coaches who have been critical of referees during the playoffs, especially the Lakers' Jackson, fined by Stern $35,000 last week for saying Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant gets superstar calls.
"There's certain gamesmanship that goes on [during the playoffs] that obviously [Stern] feels that cheapens the game,'' Jackson said after practice Friday in preparation for Saturday's Game 4 of a West first-round series against the Thunder at the Ford Center. "It never was explained to us until it suddenly came down in the last week that arbitrarily they're going to do this [with fines]. I missed the coaches' meetings last September so maybe they explained it.''
Stern, who has been commissioner since 1984, said Wednesday he wished he had established precedent 20 years ago that coaches who criticize officials would get bigger fines or even suspensions during the playoffs. But Jackson interpreted Stern, who earlier this week also fined Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy $35,000 for criticizing officials, as saying suspensions could come into play this postseason.
"I think when you throw one- or two-game suspensions in the threats, I think that means a lot to both ballclubs and the coaches,'' Jackson said. "It seems awfully heavy-handed to me. But David really isn't shy about being heavy-handed.''
Jackson doesn't buy the argument officiating is anything but subjective.
"Favoritism on the NBA court, I don't think anybody's going to be deluded into thinking that people don't get calls on the court regardless of how you say it,'' said Jackson, who said statistics could be used to prove certain players do get certain calls.
At least after Thursday's 101-96 Oklahoma City win, Jackson said the Thunder getting 34 foul shots to 12 for the Lakers was because the opponent was more aggressive. And Jackson on Friday shrugged off Lakers star Kobe Bryant getting none to 13 for Durant.
"Unfortunately, it didn't work for Kobe that way [on Thursday], but it did for Kevin,'' Jackson said. "But that's the way things go in this game.''
Stern touched upon the running battle in the early 1990s between Jackson, then with Chicago, and Pat Riley, then New York's coach. But Jackson said that was more severe than what Jackson said last week about Durant.
"In that instance, Pat started off by saying that [Bulls star Michael] Jordan got all the calls and got to the foul line,'' Jackson said. "That's blatant. And I said, 'You should talk. [Knicks star] Patrick Ewing travels every time.' So we went tit for tat.
"Now that's pretty blatant. Saying that Kevin Durant probably doesn't deserve all the fouls calls he got ... I don't know if that's as blatant as saying what Pat said about Michael Jordan.''
Through it all, Jackson is clearly enjoying some of this banter. Jackson admitted the fun he's having with it is "the problem more than anything else.''
When asked if this gamesmanship by coaches even could influence the officials, Jackson said, "I don't think it makes a difference. I know that the referees take an eye test. But I don't know if they take a reading test.''
Jackson even said Stern "misquoted'' him on Wednesday when Stern said Jackson told him before Thursday's game, ''I don't like you today'' and Stern responded, "I like you."
"I did not say I didn't like him,'' Jackson said. "I said, 'I'm not happy with you' is what I said. And he said, 'I'm happy with you.' He misquoted the exchange.''
Jackson clearly enjoyed having another chat with reporters about officiating Friday.
"The repartee that we have is just so much fun,'' he said.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.