EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Did you expect a pre-Finals news conference to pass without Lakers coach Phil Jackson taking a jab at the Celtics? When questioned about potential physical play in the series, Jackson took his first swing.
“We don’t have a smackdown mentality,’’ he said. “You might have seen that with [Kevin] Garnett on [Orlando’s Dwight] Howard in Game 6 in Boston, where he was smacking Howard’s arm and was finally called for an offensive foul. That’s not our kind of team. We don’t go out there to smack people around.
“I call it more resiliency. We’re a more resilient ball club. We try to stay strong and play hard. But we’re going to have to withstand some of that. We’re going to have to play through it. We have some guys who are capable of playing to that style in [Derek] Fisher and Ron [Artest] and obviously Kobe [Bryant]. But our big guys are going to have to stand up because that’s basically what got the Celtics through Orlando.’’
Lamar Odom took a more diplomatic approach.
“[All the series] have been physically demanding, even this last one, all the running we had to do,’’ said Odom. “This one will be physical, if they let us play a little bit.’’
Jackson did show sympathy for Kendrick Perkins, one of the Celtics’ most physical players. The Lakers coach said his team had no desire to frustrate Perkins in an effort to force the center into a technical foul. One more technical and Perkins will earn an automatic one-game suspension.
“I don’t even like to think about those kind of things,’’ said Jackson. “Those things I think should be wiped out. Flagrant fouls. Technical fouls. It just means the longer you’ve been in the playoffs the more penalized you are. It seems like that’s not a really good code right now.’’
Playing the role of professor, Jackson lectured on recent and long-ago NBA history during his afternoon news conference at the Lakers practice facility. He covered the Lakers-Celtics rivalry from 1960 to the present, revisiting the 2008 NBA Finals more than few times. That year, the Celtics clinched the championship with a 39-point victory in Game 6.
“I thought we were a little green when we came into the playoffs in 2008,’’ said Jackson. “As a team, we’d played with Pau [Gasol] for 30 some games, part of the season. We lost [Andrew Bynum] in the course of the season. We were young in a lot of other spots. This team’s mature now and experienced.’’
But losing the 2008 Finals provided a valuable lesson for the Lakers. And the Celtics were the teachers.
“We’re a different team,’’ said Bryant, when pressed for comparisons between the group that lost to the Celtics and the one looking to defend its title. “[The 2008 Finals] really taught us what it takes to win in terms of rebounding, the energy, the intensity you have to play with.’’
Added Odom: “Sometimes it’s crazy how the stars align and bring you to moments in your life. We have a chance to make history.’’
Although Bryant kept his answers brief, Jackson acknowledged the Lakers star may have taken the 2008 Finals loss more personally.
“He devotes so much of his life to this game,’’ said Jackson. “It really does take an inordinate amount of time in his daily life. It’s not a pastime to him. This is a devotion, not just an avocation. When you throw yourself into it as deeply as he does, all those things count a little bit more.’’
Bynum had fluid drained from his right knee yesterday. During the playoff run, he has struggled with a partially torn meniscus that will require surgery after the Finals. Bynum is averaging 9.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in 24.2 minutes in the playoffs. “We’re going to need me doing better than I am,’’ he said. “That’s for sure. Going in, I’m aware of that. It will definitely be fun.’’ Added Jackson: “I expect that he’s going to come out and give us some really good minutes. It may not be heavy minutes. I think he’ll give us some good minutes. He’s got some effective things that he’s done against the Celtics during the course of the year.’’ Bynum was still feeling the effects of painkillers yesterday. “It supposedly makes you feel more healthy,’’ said Bynum. “I’ll find that out come practice day.’’ Bynum likely will not practice today . . . When asked what he remembered of the Lakers-Celtics rivalries of the ’80s from his childhood, Odom’s point of reference was a video game. “There was a great basketball game that came out, really in the early ’90s, Sega Genesis, EA Sports,’’ said Odom. “I think it was called ‘Lakers versus Celtics.’ So, this is what it’s all about.’’
Source: Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.