Recently, L.A. Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson derided Kevin Durant, the star power forward of the Oklahoma City Thunder, for being coddled by the NBA referees throughout the season. Not only is this charge, no pun intended, unfounded, but it’s also the height of hypocrisy.
The very mission of the power forward is to get to the free throw line by using his threat as a shooter, entice over-committing defenders and attack the basket. Free throw per-minute statistics for Durant are comparable to other big-name power forwards in the game like Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom. True, Durant is the star of the Thunder, but the NBA gives leeway to stars all the time when it comes to borderline calls.
Furthermore, Phil Jackson is in no condition whatsoever to bemoan the coddling of star players. He’s made a career out of coaching them, and if there’s someone who is frequently accused of getting friendly calls, it’s Kobe Bryant and other of his fellow Lakers.
This public verbal tiff appears to be simply another of Jackson’s famous mind games used to intimidate or frustrate opponents. While Jackson normally isn’t so overt, his latest comments come on the heels of a mixed end to the Laker season and a public perception that the energetic Thunder may actually pose a threat to the Lakers in the first round of the Playoffs.
People should not take Jackson’s disrespectful attitude towards Durant seriously. The upstart Thunder have accomplished a great deal this season and have, if anything, probably been the victims of not getting calls due to their small-market status. The Lakers played great team defense against Durant on Sunday; let’s see if they continue to make turnovers with their trash-talking.