Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers Still Complaining About Referees
Lakers coach Phil Jackson had shared his agenda-filled thoughts, as had Boston coach Doc Rivers on the off-day between Tuesday's Game 3 and Thursday's Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
And as Rivers walked through a tunnel inside TD Garden, he was asked yet another question about the officiating.
"I don't want to posture," Rivers said with a grin.
Yet that horse, one could say, was already out of the barn.
Jackson and Rivers spent the day making their cases with the NBA officials through the media, surely pushing the league's tolerance threshold for such discussions and putting the spotlight squarely on the part of the game that is supposed to go unnoticed.
The genesis of the back and forth was Jackson's comments after his team's Game 2 loss, when he discussed at length his belief that Derek Fisher was forced to let Ray Allen run free through screens because of calls that he thinks shouldn't have been made. Sure enough, Allen didn't run free the next time out and went from scoring 32 points to two points.
Rivers, clearly miffed at what he perceived to be yet another successful politicking session from Jackson, shared his frustrations after the game. Compounding matters on his end, Game 3 marked the third straight time one of his core players has been hindered by foul trouble (Allen in Game 1, Kevin Garnett in Game 2, Paul Pierce in Game 3).
"Maybe I should start complaining about fouls (like Jackson did). Maybe I can get a turnaround like it was turned around (in Game 3). That was amazing."
A day later, he didn't shy away from keeping that public conversation going when he was asked about how Fisher was able to either get around screens or draw fouls on them.
"Derek?' Rivers retorted. "What, besides flopping? He doesn't do a lot extra. He plays hard. He's been in the game long enough to understand. (But) I thought he got away with a lot last night. I thought there was a lot of holding going on and a lot of flopping going on.
"You're not allowed to hold. You're not allowed to bump and you're not allowed to impede progress. I read that this morning, and I'm positive of it. So you know, when that happens, then that has to be called."
Jackson hardly distanced himself from the notion that his comments had changed the way the game was called.
"We wanted to be able to have defensive position, allow the ... offensive player (to) not dislodge the defensive player, which is part of the rules," Jackson said. "I think we got that point across last night, and Fish was called for one of those fouls in the early part of the game, but he wasn't called for them later."
Not that Jackson was without complaint.
His point of contention was related to the video replay system that is new to the league this season. Specifically, it was the play in the final minute in which possession was reversed to the Celtics after a review showed the ball went off of Lamar Odom. Before the last contact of the ball, it was clear that Rajon Rondo had fouled Odom while going for the ball. Fouls, however, are not reviewable.
"In the free-throw rebound that Lamar lost, Rondo grabbed his arm and pulled his arm off the ball," Jackson said. "So you know, they can't make that adjustment with the replay, but it's a foul after they haven't called it. ... Those are the things that happened prior to the play that we're looking at. So those are things I think the Rules Committee will have to discuss during the offseason, and we'll come back and probably refine it and tune it up a little bit better."
The overall tally has the Lakers attempting 96 free throws in the three games (32 per game) to the Celtics' 86 (28.6), although both coaches have focused more on the trends and nature of the calls rather than the increased volume. On this day, Rivers was clearly the more outspoken of the two. When the Los Angeles Times' longtime NBA writer Mark Heisler called Jackson's musings on the topic mild, Rivers even pointed a finger at that particular outlet.
"The point I was making (is that) I thought overall it was more -- even in your papers and everything -- I thought there was more complaining about the officiating in Game 2, and I was thinking, 'You're kidding me. You're a team (the Lakers) that's in foul trouble?'"
The campaigning did eventually come to an end, even if Rivers only backed off for fear of the NBA's heavy hand.
"At the end of the day, it's not going to be the officials who win or lose these games," Rivers said. "We're going to get away with stuff, they're going to get away with stuff. We've got to play, and this has got to be a playing series."
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