Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Phil Jackson says confrontation with Ron Artest was direct, not a big deal

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Yes, Phil Jackson and Ron Artest had a confrontation during a recent practice, but to read much into that about the focus of the Lakers or the relationship between the two would be a mistake, Jackson said Tuesday night.

Yahoo Sports first reported the conflict today, but Jackson said the report calling it a “loud” confrontation was inaccurate, saying instead it was “direct” and adding that the relationship between he and Artest is just fine.

“It was not a loud confrontation it was a man-to-man confrontation. It was obviously out of character for that to happen at practice and for Ron. And it was not about embarrassing him in public, it was about some of the issues that have been brought up that were focused about him….

“It’s nothing more than what could normally happen in a practice. And obviously there is a spy or a cam or a leak or something that went on in our practice, but those are the things that happen in practice. It was not the first time and it’s not going to be the last….

“Ron came in and apologized not only to me but in front of the team for what he said was a distraction at practice. That was his own desire to do that, I didn’t even solicit it from him.

In Ron’s defense, I’ve been trying to motivate him through a variety of activities, starting from the very beginning, just kind of talking about his activity level and his sometimes bizarre behavior. He wants it to be in private, so I said don’t act it out in public.”

Jackson added he was willing to keep things private with Artest. If Artest does something during a game Jackson said he would have to comment in a public setting, but if it is private he will honor Artest’s request.

This latest incident tied into comments where Jackson expressed concerns about distractions and “outside influences” on the Lakers this season. Jackson said those were general concerns, not specific to any one thing. Basically, he said veteran team such as his needs to keep its focus.

“The idea is that when you have a group of professionals that has played anywhere more than five years they know what it takes to play the game and they know what their job is….

“I mean I had Dennis Rodman, so what can you say? Dennis would go on a bender for two days then come back and play a great game because he knew how to get ready for a ball game. Even though he needed to blow off steam, or whatever he did. I don’t know what he was doing.”

Artest did not want to discuss the matter, saying he wanted to talk to Jackson first. He did say that he was sad this had become a story at all.

“That hurts,” Artest said. “I’ve been working hard on my image and that hurt because I just don’t want to be a part of any controversy. I don’t want to be a part of any conflict. I don’t want to be a part of anything like that. That’s why for something like that to be said is kind of weird. I won’t really say anything on that. One thing I do know is that I’m definitely anti-confrontation.”

Byron Scott isn’t thinking about next year’s draft

Byron Scott

A month into the season, the Lakers the only team in the Western Conference that can absolutely be written out of any hopes of playoff contention. They’re in an awkward position with the upcoming draft: they still need talent long-term, and they owe their pick to the Sixers if it’s outside of the top three. Not surprisingly, Byron Scott isn’t thinking about it at all.

Via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

With the Lakers fielding the NBA’s second-worst record, how much effort will the franchise put in retaining its top-3 protected draft pick?

“I don’t think about that whatsoever,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I probably won’t until April. That’s something I can’t control.”

The Lakers are in a precarious position. They appear likely bad enough to lose a lot of games. But will they lose enough to land in the top three? Otherwise, the Lakers owe Philadelphia their first-round pick as part of the Steve Nash trade.

“It’s impossible to think about the team, try to get our young guys better, the team better and also thinking about a pick,” Scott said. “That’s six months away and you might not even get it.”

Given Scott’s mentality, it’s not at all surprising that he isn’t thinking about the draft. But with his insistence on playing Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams more crunch-time minutes on this dismal Lakers team than D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, it’s pretty laughable that he talks about wanting to develop their young players.

Scott may not be thinking about the draft, but with the position the franchise is in and the likelihood that they lose their pick, he should be.

Report: Jahlil Okafor stopped for driving 108 MPH three weeks ago

Jahlil Okafor, Derrick Favors

Jahlil Okafor‘s first month in the NBA has been eventful for all the wrong reasons. Early Thanksgiving morning, he was caught on video getting into a fight with a heckler in Boston. Then, a report surfaced of another altercation from October, in which Okafor apparently had a gun pulled on him. Now, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Okafor was recently pulled over in Philadelphia for driving 108 miles per hour:

Four sources independently confirmed to The Inquirer the 76ers center was pulled over on the Ben Franklin Bridge around three weeks ago for 108 miles per hour. Anything over 40 m.p.h. is considered reckless driving.

108 miles per hour in a 40-mile zone isn’t a minor speeding infraction—it’s incredibly dangerous. It might be possible to write off any of these incidents by themselves—particularly the one where he had a gun pulled on him, which doesn’t seem to have been his fault at all. But together, the Boston incident and this speeding report aren’t a good look at all for Okafor. He’s had a solid start to the year for the Sixers, but off the court has been another story.

Harrison Barnes could be out “a few weeks” with ankle injury

Harrison Barnes
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The Warriors’ Friday night 135-116 win over the Suns was bittersweet: Harrison Barnes suffered a sprained left ankle in the third quarter and left for the remainder of the game. He missed Saturday night’s blowout win over the Kings as well, which extended the Warriors’ best-ever start to the season to 18-0.

Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton didn’t have an answer for how long Barnes will be out, but he said it could be a few weeks.

Via ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss:

“He’s being evaluated [Saturday]. We haven’t gotten the results back yet,” interim head coach Luke Walton told reporters before Saturday’s game. “It’s all speculation. It could be a few weeks. It could be a week.

“We’re not going to rush him back because we want to be healthy for later in the season and we don’t want lingering injures, so we’ll have him take his time.”

Losing a starter is never good news, but the silver lining for the Warriors is that they have enough depth and enough of a cushion to be able to take their time and not rush Barnes back. Saturday night, Walton opted to keep Andre Iguodala in his usual sixth-man role and instead start the little-used Brandon Rush in Barnes’ place. Rush responded with a 16-point performance, shooting 4-of-5 from the three-point line. If they can keep getting that kind of production out of their reserves, the Warriors will be able to withstand the loss of Barnes just fine.

Emmanuel Mudiay with the no-look, behind-the-head assist (VIDEO)

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Emmanuel Mudiay is still a work in progress on the court — he’s a rookie, what did you expect? — but he has the court vision and flair you cannot teach.

As evidence, I present this pass from Saturday night, where in transition Mudiay goes with the no-look, behind-the-head dish to Darrell Arthur for the dunk.

The Nuggets dropped this game to the Mavericks 92-81 and have lost six in a row.