Lakers refuse to engage in trash talk about Mavericks
In what appeared to be a copy of part of the Dallas Mavericks' scouting report, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson held a thick packet as he approached the media.
He didn't divulge anything regarding the Lakers' preparation for Game 1 Monday at Staples Center in what will mark the first time since 1988 they faced off in the postseason, other than saying Saturday's practice provided more of a general walk-through before focusing on specifics in Sunday's session. But toward the end of a seven-minute interview, Jackson opened the packet and showed a picture of what appeared to be a longhorn after being asked what he thought of the city of Dallas.
"Dallas, with all those steers laying around in the lawns of their city?" Jackson said with a smile. "We got one in front of our program. It's a longhorn."
That probably was the only comment remotely considered a jab at the Mavericks, who have plenty of contentious history with the Lakers despite the lack of playoff familiarity. The center of that points to Jackson and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has shared jabs with Jackson over the years, including speaking out on officiating, Cuban calling Jackson the "boy toy" of Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss and Jackson saying Cuban "has the best team money can buy."
The back-and-forth also applies to the team's benches. In the Lakers' 110-82 victory March 31 over the Mavericks, Dallas guard Jason Terry shoved Steve Blake to the ground after fouling him in the fourth quarter, Barnes stepped into the fray and pushed Terry. When Dallas assistant Terry Stotts wrapped his arms around Barnes from behind, Barnes pushed aside the Mavericks coach and knocked him onto courtside seats, an episode that drew Barnes a one-game suspension without pay, Terry to call Barnes "as soft as Charmin toilet paper" and Barnes to remind Terry of his role in Golden State's first-round upset in 2007 against Dallas as an eighth seed.
"I'm not worried about what he's talking about," Barnes said two days later. "In Golden State, we showed how to beat Dallas [in the 2007 NBA playoffs.] You go in there and take it right to their chin and they back down. I don't see anything has changed since then, so hopefully we'll have a chance to see them again."
Barnes appeared nowhere even close to expressing that sentiment, reiterating that Dallas is a different team than four years ago, a two-time defending championship team doesn't need his advice on how to beat the Mavericks and that he has no plans in offering Terry a T-shirt from his product line titled "Matt Barnes will kill you, if Ron Artest doesn't first."
"You guys are trying to get me started," Barnes said with a smile. "I can't do that yet. We'll see how the series goes."
It's somewhat of a different approach for Jackson, who has often used such needling to relieve the pressure and scrutiny from his players and plant mind games into his opponents. But he appeared nowhere interested in following through on that with Cuban, indicating "that doesn't have anything to do with [the series.]." Instead he praised the Mavericks' bench, lauded Dallas for its 12th consecutive playoff appearance and credited Cuban for acquiring talent, ranging from Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Caron Butler and Terry.
So why the sudden shift in approach? Well, Jackson is only days removed from an article in the Times-Picayune criticizing his jabs over the years about New Orleans, an episode he said just featured the press making a big deal out of a joke. So perhaps he's more sensitive to how his words are perceived. But it also points to Jackson's want for the Lakers to consume themselves on the preparation instead of any personal animosity. Should Jackson engage with theatrics with Cuban, it'd seem hypocritical for him to talk trash while expecting his players to stay silent. So in rare form, Jackson actually stood up for Cuban.
"I saw something that one of the writers wrote about Mark Cuban and what are fans going to throw at Mark Cuban in this series," Jackson said. "I think it's stupid to say stuff like that in the paper. It's not about generating animosity. This is about healthy competition."
Of course, that "healthy competition" may boil over pretty quickly should there be controversial officiating, the Mavericks starting trash talk or chippy play on the court. There's already enough on the surface, with Barnes admitting demand for his T-shirts is increasing because of the Lakers-Mavericks series and the tLakers beginning to play more physical, much to the chagrin of Hornets Coach Monty Williams. As Lakers guard Kobe Bryant admitted about the physical play, "It carries over."
But for one day at least, the Lakers are keeping the trash talk to a minimum.
""We're in the playoffs and getting into the next round is what adds everything," Barnes said. "I'm not carrying anything over. I'm not trying to get out there and get in trouble and get technical fouls. I'm trying to get out and win."
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