Here’s what happens when you’re the opposing team’s star in a playoff series against Phil Jackson’s team: The Zen Master responds to a reporter’s question in a way that draws out every amateur psychologists in the media.
The star’s psyche is probed, not by Jackson, but by the media. Reaction and counter-reaction stories can make it a three or four-day story. More if you let it. Just ask Isiah Thomas, Karl Malone or Patrick Ewing.
It’s now Kevin Durant’s turn, and Durant extended the story’s shelf-life — and his time on the couch — with a rough playoff debut Sunday. But Durant did his part to make it a dead issue Tuesday, before and after the game. The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry was there when KD “lost his patience” before the game. NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper transcribed the testy exchange between Durant and two reporters.
Then Durant went out and scored 32 points, hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range before missing a long, long one that could have won the game with 10 seconds left. If Jackson did indeed see his $35,000 fine for comments about Durant and officiating as the price to pay for renting space in Durant’s head — which frankly I don’t believe — Tuesday’s performance had the look and feel of eviction day.
But before we move on to Game 3 and the next mind game, consider this: Ron Artest bear-hugged Durant most of the night and KD shot six free throws — five fewer than Game 1, four fewer than his season average and just about what he averaged in four regular-season games against the Lakers. And the Lakers are up 2-0.
Other links that make me think:
The Thunder is young. Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke wonders what’s the Lakers’ excuse. This piece points out that Kobe Bryant’s father, current Japanese league coach and former NBA reserve Joe Bryant, watched his son play in person for the first time in five years. Said the elder Bryant: “I like sitting home because I can curse.” Think Phil Jackson felt the same way?
(As an aside, here’s how old I am: Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant was my camp counselor when I was an 11-year-old attending the University of Maryland basketball camp and he was a Philly hoops legend and La Salle University star. Great guy, winning personality and a fair singer, as I recall. He and Duke postman Terry Chili could sing a mean acappella version of the Seals & Crofts hit “Summer Breeze.” Good times.)
Did the Lakers take the Thunder lightly? Derek Fisher’s pregame urging and a quote from Jackson in this story by the Times’ Mike Bresnahan piece seem to say “yes.”
Maybe Jackson is right. Maybe the Lakers will have to shoot much better win in Oklahoma City, as the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding writes here. There’s also a chance that all 17 of those shots the Thunder blocked were going in before they got swatted.
James Harden seems lost and Eric Maynor looks only slightly more steady. The two rookies we marveled at a month ago are a combined 2-of-11 in 46 minutes in Games 1 and 2. I’ve wondered about the wisdom of having them on the court together, which has happened for at least one stretch in both games. But in this Kobe appreciation, ESPN-Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin takes a shot at Maynor, calling him a “lightweight.”
Did you like Artest’s Game 2 hairdo? The Oklahoman assistant sports editor Scott Munn said it looked like a “bad Easter egg.” Phil Jackson is known to give his players books during the season. Is it possible he gave Artest one of those kids accessory books titled “Your Very Own Dennis Rodman Starter Kit”?