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Garnett, Rivers respond to Jackson's comments about Celtics' 'smackdown mentality'

June 1, 2010 |  2:34 pm

Lakers' Coach Phil Jackson was asked a fairly harmless question Monday -- How would he define his team's toughness? -- but he seemed to steer his answer toward yet another postseason slight at an opposing player his Lakers will soon face. 

This time, it was Celtics' forward Kevin Garnett, who joins Steve Nash and  Kevin Durant as players Jackson has targeted this postseason.

Speaking of his own defense, Jackson said, "We don't have a smackdown mentality." 

Then, Jackson said, using Garnett as an example, "You might have seen that with  Garnett on [Orlando's Dwight] Howard in Game 6 in Boston, where [Garnett] was smacking Howard's arm and was finally called for an offensive foul. That's not our kind of team. We don't go out there and smack people around." 

Now, whether Jackson intended the slight or not, his answer is being used as bulletin-board fodder for this Finals series. On Tuesday, Garnett gave the jab a brief no comment, later adding, "I think nothing of it. It's just Phil playing mind games."

But Celtics Coach Doc Rivers appreciated it on Garnett's behalf. 

"We just thank Phil for the compliment," Rivers said. "That's very nice of him to say." 

Moreover, Rivers said Jackson's usual postseason zinger is a compliment for Garnett. 

"I think he picks the best player on the other team or who he thinks is key," Rivers said. "So I think Kevin should put that one right up there with his MVP trophy and everything else. I think Kevin should be excited about that."

Will other Celtics players be jealous?

"I think Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] and [Rajon] Rondo, they’re going to be [upset] about this because they were hoping it would be them," Rivers said, smiling. 

Speaking generally about the Celtics defense, Garnett said "I think part of defense is being physical. Definitely being firm. You're playing physical guys like Shaq, Dwight Howard,[Andrew] Bynum, you've got to hold your ground. You've got to find some way to absorb it the best way you see fit. Our style is to stay firm, consistent and there's a lot of communication."

Rivers said if they're considered a smackdown team, that's fine.

"Whatever got us here," he said. "We're not hiding from who we are, and we're going to be that. So that's never going to change. We said it from Day 1. We are who we are. If you like us, cheer for us. If you don't, complain. But we're not going to change." 

-- Baxter Holmes