Phil Jackson loves to needle Pau Gasol

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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.