Lakers Coach Phil Jackson suggests Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant benefits from officiating calls
It had been a matchup Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had thought would be a strong possibility for quite some time. But even though the Lakers-Oklahoma City first-round playoff matchup is officially set in stone, Jackson debated back and forth on whether the Lakers (56-24) would benefit from the Thunder's (49-32) playoff inexperience.
And for a series Jackson said will be predicated on "an adjustment to the unknown," he just threw the first fastball. All season, the Zen master has been largely complimentary of Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, who currently leads the league in scoring at 30.1 points per game. But when I asked whether Durant could eventually become the torchbearer of the NBA, Jackson's praise came in a different context.
"Yeah, by the calls he gets, he really gets to the line a lot, I'll tell ya." Jackson said Tuesday after the team's shoot-around before Tuesday night's game against Sacramento.
Jackson isn't the only one thinking that way. Boston's Kevin Garnett recently compared Durant to former Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, not because of his skills set but because of his trips to the foul line. And for those who like their insults to come with a little bit of color -- well, Garnett certainly didn't disappoint. Though Durant wasn't on the offensive end, he was recently involved with a play in which Denver forward Carmelo Anthony hit the right side of his head on Durant's hip, resulting in Melo laying on the floor motionless without the officials noticing.
Durant ranks first in the NBA in free-throw attempts (825) and per game (10.3), while Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is ranked 10th in free-throw attempts (541) and ninth per contest (7.4). In fairness to Durant, however, there is at least one call the officials missed in his favor. The NBA recently acknowledged that referees missed a foul on Utah forward C.J. Miles, which would've given Durant three free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining in the Jazz’s 140-139 overtime win over the Thunder.
After the laughter subdued, Jackson continued. "There's a couple plays in the last game where I was pretty curious how he got there," he said. "He really has a reputation as one of the hot points in the league."
"So, you think it looks like Durant has learned the tricks of the trade," I asked Jackson.
"Yeah, you go there," he said, "create contact and you hope you get to the line."
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, shown driving the ball on Dallas forward Caron Butler, scored 23 as the Thunder clinched a playoff spot with a 121-116 victory Saturday night in Dallas. Credit: Mike Fuentes / Associated Press