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.”