Durant played right into Phil’s hand

What in the hell am I talking about, you ask? If you haven’t heard, Phil Jackson told the press that Kevin Durant gets too many calls, and the 21-year-old responded by saying that he felt disrespected.

Rumors & Rants says that Durant fell into the Zen Master’s trap.

Look man, I know you’re a great player, hell the whole world knows you’re a great player and Phil Jackson is definitely aware of the kind of player you are. You think he just tossed that line out there to be disrespectful? Dude, the guy is the Zen master. He’s won 10 championships. He didn’t do that by just randomly disrespecting opponents. He’s planting a line in the media to get you to respond and you allowed yourself to be played. You jumped right in to his game.

What you should have done was respond with something like this: “Well that’s his opinion. He’s a great coach, he’s earned the right to express his opinion.” Bingo, end of discussion. Instead of a throw-away story that would have died after a day or two, now this is going to balloon up and become THE story of the Thunder’s first round matchup with the defending champions.

Now it’s on your shoulders to prove him wrong. Now everyone will be focused on how you play and how you respond if the officials don’t give you the kind of calls you’ve become accustomed to. And now the officials are going to be in the spotlight and will be criticized one way or the other for how they call the games.

Instead of just disappearing this has become a full-fledged incident. Jackson knew exactly what he was doing and you became his latest patsy.

No arguments here. We’ll see if Durant plays better, worse or the same now that he and Jackson are at odds.


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Phil Jackson says Durant gets too many calls

Phil Jackson’s mind games have begun, and Kevin Durant is none too happy about it.

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson told reporters Wednesday that Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant gets preferential treatment from referees.

“Yeah, by the calls he gets, he really gets to the line a lot, I’ll tell ya,” Jackson said, according to The Oklahoman’s Web site.

Of course, those of us that have watched Jackson over the years realizes that this is his not-so-subtle attempt at getting into the heads of the officials.

Still, Durant didn’t take the slight kindly.

“I don’t disrespect nobody in this league,” Durant said, according to the report. “I respect every coach, every player, everybody. I never say anything bad about anybody else or question why they do this or do that. So for them to say that about me, I don’t even want to use no foul language.”

“If the refs pay attention to that and change how they call things because of that, that’s terrible,” Durant said, according to the newspaper. “That’s terrible to the game of basketball and to us. If that happens, then [coach] Scotty [Brooks] could talk, too. Or any other coach could talk, too, just so the refs could switch everything up. But I doubt they do that.”

Durant shot 10.2 free throws per game this season, compared to Kobe Bryant’s 7.4, but in Kobe’s heyday — when he would relentlessly attack the rim — he shot 10.1, 10.2 and 10.0 from 2004 to 2007. I wonder if Jackson thought that the Laker superstar got too many calls during that stretch.

Good scorers who are aggressive get to the line. Durant and LeBron James led the league with 10.2 attempts per game, and Dwight Howard was third with 10.0.

Durant is a really tough cover — that’s why he gets to the line.


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Your quick and dirty NBA Playoffs preview

The matchups are set and the first round starts this weekend. In the East, the top four teams — Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and Atlanta — seem like good bets to advance, while in the West, I wouldn’t be shocked if the bottom four seeds — Utah, Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City — were to make the second round. Here’s a quick look at each series:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Cavaliers vs. Bulls
It’s not often that a team that had a 10-game losing streak end in mid-February recovers and makes the postseason, but that’s exactly what the Bulls have done, winning 10 of their last 14 to capture the final playoff spot in the East. Chicago has the tools to make this a series, and with Shaquille O’Neal coming back from a long break, there’s a chance this could go to six or seven games. But in the end, Cleveland should have plenty of firepower to put the Bulls away.

Celtics vs. Heat
If there’s going to be an upset in the East, this will probably be it. The C’s have limped into the playoffs, losing eight of their last 13 games. Meanwhile, the Heat went 18-4 in February and March, but were just 4-3 against teams with winning records. Boston swept the season series despite Dwyane Wade’s terrific numbers (34-5-9, 50% shooting), so if anyone else steps up, the streaking Heat have a good shot at stealing the first or second game and gaining control of the series.

Hawks vs. Bucks
If Andrew Bogut were healthy, I’d pick Milwaukee, but the Bucks are going to have a tough time winning a seven-game series against a pretty good Atlanta team that has won 13 of its last 19 games. The Bucks’ defense could keep the games (and the series) close, but the Hawks should have enough to move on.

Magic vs. Bobcats
Orlando is peaking at the right time, going 19-3 in February and March. However, one of those losses was at home against Charlotte. The Bobcats are playing well too — they’re 16-7 over their last 23 games. Both teams are excellent defesively; they’re tied for first in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), so expect a few tight games. But Orlando just has too much talent.

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