Phil Jackson is obviously trying to manipulate NBA officials before the playoffs begin. He’s also trying to get into the head of Oklahoma City Thunder star forward Kevin Durant. Jackson’s Lakers are one day away from setting out to defend their NBA title, and Phil has been fined twice in the past two weeks for criticizing the officials. The most recent, which cost Jackson $35,000, is in my opinion completely unwarranted. Here’s what Jackson had to say about Durant, the franchise player of the Lakers’ first round opponent:
As far as the calls that he gets on the floor, I think a lot of the referees are treating him like a superstar; he gets to the line easy and often.”
There’s a lot of things wrong with this coming from the mouth of the ten-time champion head coach. First and foremost, Jackson said refs are treating Durant “like a superstar.” Jackson is implying that Durant isn’t a superstar and doesn’t deserve superstar calls from the refs. Hang on Phil, on what planet is Kevin Durant not a superstar? He just became the youngest player ever to win an NBA scoring title by averaging over 30 points per game at the ripe age of 22. Yes, that’s right, he accomplished a feat that LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan could not. Durant also turned around a troubled franchise in the span of three years, leading Oklahoma City to its first playoff birth since moving from Seattle. I don’t really understand what Jackson meant when he said the officials “treat” him like a superstar. Durant could eventually develop into the best player in the league, and yes I’m aware that LeBron James and Kobe Bryant haven’t retired.
Secondly, isn’t this a bad case of the pot calling the kettle black? Jackson may have more championships rings than any coach in NBA history, but he certainly would have had trouble reaching those heights without his players receiving their own superstar treatment. That’s not to take anything away from the skill-sets of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, but Jackson has been on the receiving end of superstar treatment each season he’s won a title. Superstars are going to get to the line more than average players — that’s the nature of the beast in the NBA. Most of the calls they get are well-deserved, but there are plenty that aren’t.
This isn’t the first time someone has objected to the way NBA officials are treating Kevin Durant. At least when Kevin Garnett went on his Durant rant it was after a game, and if you watch the replays from that Celtics-Thunder matchup you’ll see Garnett had a legitimate gripe. There’s no doubt to me that Phil Jackson is intentionally working the officials before LA’s series with the Thunder starts. I’d like to think the Zen Master didn’t just spend $35,000 in an attempt to get into Durant’s head and get a few extra calls, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.
Aside from the fact that he is on his way to superstar heights, Durant’s physical make-up alone is going to result in him getting to the charity stripe more frequently than any other player. Of course the officials will miss calls and make their fair share of terrible calls like they do in almost every game, but try defending a player with the height and length of Durant that accompanies his guard-like ball skills. Whether or not he receives preferential treatment, Durant is going to get to the free throw line early and often throughout his career. The quickness of his jump shot combined with his handling skills make him almost impossible to defend, and sometimes all a player can do is hack him on the forearm to prevent the easy bucket.
Phil is more than likely trying to give his team an edge any way he can before the playoffs even begin. That’s his style. It’s worked ten times in the past. We’ll know soon if it proves successful once again.
Jackson fined for comments on Durant [ESPN]