Phil Jackson: David Stern can be a little heavy handed


You didn’t really think Phil Jackson — make that the recently fined Phil Jackson — was going to let David Stern’s “I should have suspended them to start with” comments go unchallenged, did you?

That’s not how Phil works. Here is the transcript from Scott Howard-Cooper at’s Sekou Smith’s Hangtime Blog.

“I think when you start throwing one- and two-game suspensions in the threats, I think that means a lot to both ball clubs and to coaches,” Jackson said Friday before Lakers practice at the Ford Center. “It seems awful heavy-handed to me, but David is one that isn’t shy about being heavy-handed.

“There’s a certain gamesmanship that goes on that he obviously he feels cheapens the game. It never was explained to us until it suddenly came down here this last week that arbitrarily they’re going to do this…”

But when asked whether Stern should be fed up with what has become a steady stream of comments on the officiating, Jackson said: “I don’t think so. I think there’s a situation here that – favoritism on the NBA court, I don’t think anybody’s going to be deluded into thinking that people don’t gets calls on the court regardless of how you say it. It’s just a natural evolution of the game and a natural evolution of who gets the ball the most, and they’re going to end up a lot of times at the foul line. Unfortunately it didn’t work that way for Kobe [Bryant] last night but it did for Kevin [Durant]. But that’s the way things go in this game. You have to accept it, swallow it, and move on.”

Kevin Durant got the calls last night because he was aggressive and went to the hole. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers settled for jumpers, and jump shooters don’t get fouled. Jackson acknowledged as much. But to suggest that there isn’t certain players don’t get calls, would be foolish, because we all see it.

The only thing that would be worse is trying to simply stamp out dissent, shut up the whistle blowers. Which is how Stern comes off. He feels that demeaning the referees cheapens the product, that it creates the distrust of the officials on some level. But that is backwards — while it may amplify it, it does not create it. The referees create it themselves.  

Transparency — real, genuine transparency in calls and how they are tracked and how officials are rated — is a start. The officials are in a difficult place, making fast calls on close plays as large, fast men fly around. Nobody expects perfection. But we expect an open and honest striving toward it, and nobody is sure we have that now.

Plus, some coaches or players pushing back on the officials is just part of the playoff fun.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.