Lakers’ Jackson says Suns’ Nash carries ball
AP Sports Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) – Lakers coach Phil Jackson thinks Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns’ star point guard sometimes plays a bit too much like a running back.
With a mischievous grin, Jackson said Friday that it’s tough for Los Angeles to prepare to face Nash during defensive practice because of the two-time MVP’s style with the basketball.
“Yeah, because you can’t carry the ball like he does in practice,” Jackson said. “You can’t pick that ball up and run with it.”
Jackson turned his palm over while he spoke, making the officials’ gesture for palming of the basketball.
Nash’s ball-handling and playmaking are driving the Suns’ remarkable postseason success, and Jackson apparently couldn’t resist the chance to get in a crack at the Canadian star while perhaps planting a seed in any listening officials’ minds. Nash is averaging 17.8 points and 9 assists per game in the playoffs while leading Phoenix past Portland and San Antonio.
The Western Conference finals begin Monday in Los Angeles.
Although Jackson professes ample respect for the 36-year-old Nash’s skills, the 10-time NBA champion coach’s comment suggests he believes the point guard gets generous treatment from officials in the elastic rules about traveling and palming calls.
Other players and coaches have suggested a similar belief over the years, though Nash is hardly the only NBA player who draws such complaints from opponents: Kobe Bryant also has been known to stretch one of basketball’s simplest rules to its limits.
And Nash isn’t even the first player in this postseason to draw the attention of Jackson, whose track record of playing such games through the media goes back 20 years to his early seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
Last month before the playoffs even began, Jackson was fined $35,000 by the NBA for saying Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant was getting generous treatment from officials.
“As far as the calls that he gets on the floor, I think a lot of the referees are treating him like a superstar,” Jackson said then. “He gets to the line easy and often.”
Jackson also was fined two weeks before that incident when he criticized referee Bennett Salvatore after a game against San Antonio. The Lakers also had a beef with Salvatore in last season’s playoffs, when Jackson criticized Denver’s Dahntay Jones for playing “unsportsmanlike basketball” during a rant about inconsistent officiating – right after a game refereed by Salvatore.