Live from Hawks-Lakers: Zen Master Phil is not pleased

Yesterday’s news was that the Lakers canceled a practice scheduled for Georgia Tech. Turns out it wasn’t entirely canceled. Just sort of.

“An unofficial practice,” was how Phil Jackson — the Zen Master, or Big Chief Triangle, as Jeff Van Gundy once dubbed him — put it tonight. And we writers eat this stuff up. Intrigue on the hardwood … love it!

The back story: The Lakers aren’t happy with the way they’ve been playing. This is the final stop on a five-game road trip, and they’ve lost two of the past three. They managed but 75 points in Oklahoma City — after which Jackson told reporters, “If they’re not going to respond to your coaching, why do you want to come back [next season] and coach them?” — and on Monday they were beaten in New Orleans by the sub-.500 Hornets. So the Zen Master took the unusual step of canceling practice, then holding one. Sort of.

“Select players” were invited. Just guessing, we can assume they were the Lakers’ subs, who were outscored 42-12 by the Hornets’ reserves. This did not sit well with the holder of 10 NBA titles. “It makes you want to throw up,” Jackson said.

Never mind that the Lakers have won 54 games and are all but locked in the as the No. 1 seed out West. They haven’t been playing well — they lost all three games on a previous Eastern swing earlier this month — and their big offseason move of letting Trevor Ariza leave and importing Ron Artest is being widely critiqued.

A Jackson pregame briefing, you should know, is unlike any other. Every word is parsed for subtext, and sometimes the subtext isn’t so subtle. A reporter mentioned that Pau Gasol, who has often been accused of being a finesse player, described himself as having played “very, very tough” this season.

Said Jackson: “I think two ‘verys’ is too many.”

Asked about sub Sasha Vujacic, who didn’t play in either of the Lakers’ past two games, Jackson said: “He had a run-in with the coaching staff in Oklahoma City. He knows what he has to do to get back in our good graces, but he hasn’t yet done that.”

But the Zen Master had one nice thing to say about a bench player on somebody’s team. Of the Hawks’ Jamal Crawford, Jackson averred, “is the odds-on favorite to be Sixth Man of the Year.”

Crawford’s reaction: “He said that? Tell him thanks.”

And that’s where we are: The Lakers arrived at Philips Arena tired from their trip but with one angry coach. The Hawks, meanwhile, are happy. With that, we’ll open the floor for comments, questions and advice for the Zen Master. (Mine would be something like, “Bench Kobe. You’re better off without him.” But maybe that’s just me.) I’ll be here until somebody wins, and I’d enjoy your company. Thanks, as ever, in advance.

145 comments Add your comment

KT Deuce

March 31st, 2010
6:43 pm

First, Lakers are the best. SON

mountain_jim

March 31st, 2010
6:52 pm

Too bad I can’t watch – not a national televised game…

Benjamin

March 31st, 2010
6:57 pm

Third? (My highest finish in weeks…)

Chief Triangle isn’t happy, but neither is his current number one protege….

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
6:57 pm

That’s sad, mountain jim. Should be a fine one.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
6:58 pm

We all go through down cycles, Benjamin. As I recall, you had three or four “firsts” in 36 hours.

Benjamin

March 31st, 2010
7:01 pm

That was the weirdest stretch, MB. You are correct in your recollections…

I don’t think I’ve had a single “first” before or since.

(My — unfortunate — prediction: Hawks lose tonight. I don’t like playing Kobe and Phil when they’re angry. And Crawford, if you’re reading this one like you do the Cunningham blogs, PLEEEEASE prove me wrong. 20 points from you tonight off the bench, sir… 20 points…)

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:03 pm

I like the Hawks tonight.

Benjamin

March 31st, 2010
7:04 pm

I hope you are correct and I am wrong, Bradley. I really do.

Enjoy the game while I wrap up my day in the cube.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:05 pm

Keri Hilson just messed up the National Anthem. Sang one line twice.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:06 pm

Artest will start on Joe Johnson. Said the Zen Master: “He asked to do that.”

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:06 pm

Guess we get to see what the Hawks are made of tonight, huh?

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:07 pm

I do, too, MB. I don’t think the streak will end at 8

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:07 pm

I think we have some idea that the Hawks are pretty good, IceColdATLien. They’ve won 47 games. They’re 4-0 against the Celtics. They finally beat Orlando.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:10 pm

Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton are still out for the Lakers.

Benjamin

March 31st, 2010
7:11 pm

I’m a fan that wants to see them roll — and I’m very proud of them in general — but it just makes me think they are in trouble when I read about how mad the Lakers are. If they come out playing mad, it really could be a long night.

Benjamin doesn’t like the Black Mamba when he’s angry. If I were an NBA player on an opposing team, I’d be rubbing his belly and telling him he’s the greatest player in the history of the game every time I guarded him.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:13 pm

Gasol dunks off an Artest feed to start this one.

Cannon

March 31st, 2010
7:14 pm

So, embarrassing hearing Phillips erupt after the Lakers 1st basket. Where are my Hawk fans?

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:14 pm

Kobe misses his first shot. Joe on him.

bibBbib

March 31st, 2010
7:14 pm

Joe’s got Artest on him. See what Joe is made of tonight.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:15 pm

Hawks up 7-4. Bibby with three jumpers.

ddoogg33

March 31st, 2010
7:16 pm

all yall people who argue about first must not have a job u should be first on job search

bibBbib

March 31st, 2010
7:18 pm

Artest got Joe on the arm

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:19 pm

Did Smoove just drop a bank hook??!!

RHR

March 31st, 2010
7:20 pm

I’m embarrassed for the dude holding the “Kobe is overrated” sign. Uh no. He’s not. And I don’t even like the lakers but c’mon kid.

bibBbib

March 31st, 2010
7:20 pm

Imagine if Hawks still had Gasol to go with what we have now. We’d be defending champs

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:20 pm

Hawks up 13-10. Kobe has hit two jumpers, missed two others. Joe drove on Artest and scored, then shot an air ball.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:21 pm

Yes he did, IceColdATLien. Over Odom. That was nice.

RHR

March 31st, 2010
7:21 pm

I like the Hawks tonight.

To borrow from the MIB blog….

BALLGAME!

HawksFan2010

March 31st, 2010
7:21 pm

Wish I could have been at the game.

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:22 pm

MB, they still need to demonstrate a killer instinct on defense that they haven’t yet shown. So, let’s see if they got it tonight… even if they are playing a road weary and injured squad (which is still the best in the West)

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:22 pm

T.I. is in the audience.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:24 pm

Joe on a backdoor puts the Hawks back ahead. Got fouled by Artest, too.

HawksFan2010

March 31st, 2010
7:24 pm

I seen him at a game last year. He better get back home before 11. lol

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:25 pm

Tough runout basket by Artest put the Lakers ahead.

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:26 pm

TI representin straight outta da pen!

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:26 pm

Joe ties it with a corner three. Gasol backs down Horford and hooks over him.

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:27 pm

Al tried to “pull the chair” like the player I think he can become: Karl Malone

Cannon

March 31st, 2010
7:27 pm

Kobe’s gonna put up 40 if Smoove is on him. Josh can even come close to keeping up with Kobe.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:27 pm

Kobe throws the ball out of bounds. Marvin was guarding.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:28 pm

Joe fouls Artest.

And the only way Josh guards Kobe, Cannon, is on a switch. The Hawks switch a lot.

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:31 pm

Gotta keep Artest a shooter ’cause he can do some damage down low

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:32 pm

Great box on Gasol

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:33 pm

Crawford trey over Gasol. Hawks up 25-22.

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:33 pm

JC is just too nasty with those bombs

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:34 pm

So far the hitters are ahead of the pitchers. Both teams scoring a lot.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:36 pm

Shannon Brown fouls Crawford with 3.8 seconds left in the period.

IceColdATLien

March 31st, 2010
7:37 pm

Za doing work off the bench

Andy

March 31st, 2010
7:37 pm

Mark

How is the crowd tonight? Does there seem to be more Hawks or Lakers fans there?

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:37 pm

Hawks by four after one. So much for the Zen Master’s stratagems.

Mark Bradley

March 31st, 2010
7:38 pm

There’s the usual complement of Lakers fans, Andy, but it’s not nearly the majority. Hawks are the people’s choice in this one.