He can’t help himself. It would be pretty hard to get on Pau Gasol for his play the first week of the season — he was named Western Conference Player of the Week for good reason. Averaged 25 and 10 on 52 percent shooting and threw in five dimes a game just for fun.
But there was Phil Jackson yesterday, needle in hand, poking Gasol as his brother Marc and the Memphis Grizzlies come to town, all recorded by the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s been very hard on him,” Jackson said of past battles in the post between the brothers. “A lot of times we say we traded the wrong guy and tell him that Marc is a tougher, more powerful player than he is. [Marc] doesn’t have the shooting touch yet, but his defense, his rebounding is very good. He gets a kick out of playing against Pau. He’s actually a little more physical than Pau is. I like to bring it to [Pau’s] awareness.”
Jackson is pretty good about knowing who he can needle. Some guys take it better than others. Pau is about as mature and confident in himself as any player there is. Jackson’s comments roll off like water on a duck’s back.
“I don’t think he believes that, but obviously he’s always picking,” said Gasol. “He’s always trying to have a good time, and we have fun playing around with each other.”
Jackson’s needling always comes with a message. In this case: Tonight you need to toughen up. But did anyone doubt Pau already knew that? Still, Jackson can’t help himself.
NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.
The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.
Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.
Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.
Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.
HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.
Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.
Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.
The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.
Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.
But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.
Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.
The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.
He might get back far sooner than that.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star break.
Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.
The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.