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 NBA.com’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.