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Phil Jackson playing nice with everyone

May 3, 2011 | 10:51 am

Lj3mnqnc As contrary as he can sometimes be, it would've been safe to presume that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson would spend his final season getting in every last dig he can.

But he's spent the last week lamenting a story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune headlined "Why does Phil hate us?" -- a rundown of zingers he's fired at New Orleans over the years. After comparing the Maloof family, owners of the Sacramento Kings, to the McCourts, embattled owners of the Dodgers, Jackson apologized for his remarks in a handwritten letter. And as the Lakers entered their Western Conference semifinal series against the Dallas Mavericks, Jackson showered nothing but praise on owner Mavericks Mark Cuban, a man with whom Jackson often trades playful barbs back and forth, about being a possible new owner of the Dodgers.

"He really improved their quality of their team," Jackson said of Cuban and the Mavericks. "... I imagine he'd do the same thing with the Dodgers."

Sure, Jackson later joked about how he wouldn't want Cuban to be an owner of a team he coached, fearful that the entrepreneur would be obtrusive behind the bench. He also made it clear he reluctantly wrote the apology to the Maloofs, cracking, "I had a gun to my head, but I did it." But during a time when Jackson is typically finding a way to tweak an official or opponent to gain a competitive edge, play a mind game or just amuse himself, he's now staying remarkably quiet.

In an interesting twist, Cuban has decided to take the same approach, joking that he's waiting for the right time to throw Jackson a punch line. When informed that Jackson considered Cuban a good candidate to buy the Dodgers, Cuban replied, "Phil is always right." When told about Jackson's handwritten apology to the Maloofs, Cuban couldn't help but remark on his own penmanship, saying, "I don't think even think my handwriting works anymore." And when asked by numerous reporters to throw some barb at Jackson, Cuban surprisingly resisted: "I'm just going to hold my tongue right now."

"I like it," Cuban said of the back-and-forth with Jackson. "It's only fun to pick on somebody if they can fight back."

But for now, Jackson's making peace.

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson on April 3, 2011. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire