Before Tuesday's game against the Pistons, Phil Jackson responded to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports of a dust up between the head coach and Ron Artest: "At a recent practice, league sources said, Artest loudly confronted Jackson... Essentially, Artest told Jackson that if he wants to coach him, coach him. Just stop embarrassing him in public."
"It’s close to accurate," Jackson said of the report. "It was not a loud confrontation, it was a man-to-man confrontation. And it was obviously out of character for both that to happen at practice, and for Ron. And it wasn’t about embarrassing him publicly, it was about some of the issues that had been brought up that have focused about him.”
Jackson called the incident "out of character for both that to happen at practice, and for Ron."
Later, according to Jackson, Artest delivered an unsolicited apology both to him and the team for causing a distraction. There was nothing about what happened Jackson found particularly unusual about the chatfrontation, save the fact somebody talked about it to the media. "Obviously there’s either a spy, or a camera, or a leak, or something that went on in our practice," he smiled. "But [arguments] are things that happen in practice, and it’s not the first time, and it’s not going to be the last."
For his part, Artest refused to comment specifically despite being asked about 12 different ways to describe what happened. "I would have to talk to coach first because last year I had issues with coach going to the media first before [coming to me]," he said. "I’ve been working so hard over the last couple years on my whole Ron Artest image. I worked real hard to try to keep everything positive so it’s really hard to comment on anything right now at this point and time until I would speak to coach."
If there's anything to escalate, kudos to Artest for refusing. But where he did reveal something interesting was when asked if it bothers him this sort of thing would end up in the media to begin with. "That hurts. I’ve been working so hard on my image and that hurt because I just don’t want to be a part of any controversy. I don’t want to be a part of any conflict. I don’t want to be a part of anything like that. That’s why for something like that to be said is kind of weird. I won’t really say anything on that," he said.
"One thing I do know is that I’m definitely anti-confrontation."
People will rightly form opinions on the value of what Kobe Bryant called at Monday's practice Jackson's style of "coaching publicly." (I asked P.J. tonight whether he agreed with 24's assessment, and was given a fairly entertaining, somewhat convoluted deflection in response.) In the end, I'd be surprised if any of this amounts to much more than a ripple. Basically a day's worth of news. Artest's reaction, though, becomes interesting in a week where the subject of media-sent messages is front and center, an example of how the other end of things can cause problems, too, when that which should probably (at least if it's up to Ron) stay in house leaves through a side door.