Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Jackson says Durant a 'superstar'
By Dave McMenamin ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson has coached the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, but he doesn't know how to define a "superstar."
"I really don't know what deems [that]," Jackson said before the Lakers' 106-100 win against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. "Scoring leader? I really don't know what deems a superstar. Whether it's attraction to fans, who decides they're going to make commercials with him, you know, it's a promo effect."
Jackson's response was in reference to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, the 21-year-old supernova the Lakers are set to meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant leads the NBA in scoring and also in getting to the free-throw line with the most frequency.
The dynamic 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward leads the league in scoring average (30.1) and free-throw attempts per game (10.3) despite this being only his third season.
"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," Jackson said, seemingly starting his gamesmanship with the officials a little early this spring. "He's got the ability to create fouls. That's a big part of scoring, to get to the foul line."
Despite his raising the issue of Durant's possibly receiving preferential treatment from the officials, Jackson spoke highly of Durant's game.
"He's good enough to cover distance and drive both ways, left and right, he's pretty good with both hands," Jackson said. "He's got a fastbreak part of his game and he gets points off run-outs. He's going to have opportunities. We just have to control what we can control out there in the game."
Ron Artest will draw the assignment of trying to control Durant when the playoffs begin. Durant averaged 25.8 points during the regular season against the Lakers.
"I think it's going to be great to see him now," Artest said. "I see him sporadically, here and there a little bit. What is he, a second-year player?"
When Artest was informed Durant was actually a three-year veteran, he racked his brain to remember ever facing against him in Sacramento before changing his tune completely, no longer acknowledging the matchup.
"I just play basketball," Artest said. "I don't really think about who I'm in front of [guarding]. I just think about playing ball, that's it."
More Thunder thoughts
In Jackson's last two championship seasons with Chicago, the Bulls faced young, upstart opponents in Washington and New Jersey in their first round matchups, similar to draw the Lakers have this season.
Chicago swept both series and Jackson said he learned the key to eliminating confident teams on the rise is to dash their hopes early.
"Win as quickly as possible," Jackson said. "Apply the pressure and take advantage of the non-growth and inexperience that they may exhibit."
Jackson described Oklahoma City as "very quick" and well-organized in the transition game, adept at creating turnovers and converting them into easy scoring opportunities. He said he spoke to Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, who had five turnovers apiece, after the game to emphasize the importance of protecting the ball against the Thunder.
Bynum in uniform
Andrew Bynum put on his jersey before the game and a locker room attendant, aware of the 7-footer's left Achilles' strain, approached him and asked, "Is this a costume? What is this, Halloween?"
Bynum was actually wearing the extra long jersey to cover up his lower half as he changed into workout clothes so he could go through a treadmill workout, a day after reporting no pain following a 20-minute run on a specialized, anti-gravity treadmill with 30 pounds of his body weight removed.
Tuesday he ran on a conventional treadmill with all of his body weight. Jackson said Bynum planned to have an individual on-court workout Thursday while the team has the day off and rejoin the team for a full practice Friday.
"Today was another step getting actually close to the court," Bynum said.
The Lakers are now 6-6 in the 12 games Bynum has missed.
"We want him to start shooting the ball and doing some things on the floor," Jackson said.
Bynum has said he expected his reintegration into the lineup to take some time as he regains his stamina, but Jackson was confident he could help the team against the Thunder.
"He can be very effective against this team," Jackson said. "His size really hurts them. I think it hurts them more than Pau's because they want to front high side and do some things and he's just too big to do that. He can have an impact on the series."
Hair today, gone tomorrow?
If the Lakers didn't look different enough already with Bynum and Bryant out of the lineup Tuesday, Artest and DJ Mbenga made sure to further alter their appearance going into the Kings game.
Artest bleached his hair Monday night in an encore of the gold and purple hairdo he debuted in Orlando last month and recruited Mbenga to join him.
Only, instead of the color gold, their hair looked, well, let's ask Artest:
"Right now it's like red, I don't even know," he said.
Mbenga also had a star shaved into the back of his head.
"Just want to bring playoff atmosphere, show how tough we are and just having fun," Mbenga said with a smile.
Jackson had a little fun at his players' expense.
"Ron needs to draw attention to himself and this is one of the great ways to do it," Jackson said. "They've taken a lot of abuse for it in the last six hours, I'll tell you that."
Mbenga said he has received "a lot of reaction" and 90 percent of it was "bad."
Odom, noticing the dye that decorated Artest's goatee as well said, "I'm going to have a playoff beard. ... I'm going to let it just grow out."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.