Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have a longstanding feud marked by several swipes at each other via the media over the last decade, but as Mark Medina of the L.A. Times reports, Jackson has adopted a different approach as he prepares to square off against Cuban’s club in the postseason for the first time in his career. “It’s not about generating animosity,” Jackson told reporters. “This is about healthy competition.”
Strong words from a man who once showed his Lakers images from the film American History X to fire them up prior to a playoff series against the Sacramento Kings. But it’s working; his players have backed off as well. Even Matt Barnes, whose altercation with Dallas’ Jason Terry in March resulted in his earning a one-game suspension and fueled a few days of trash-talking between the teams. Here’s how Barnes responded Sunday, according to Medina, when asked if he planned to give Terry a t-shirt bearing the words Matt Barnes will kill you, if Ron Artest doesn’t first, which is part of his Elusion Clothing label:
“You guys are trying to get me started,” Barnes said with a smile. “I can’t do that yet. We’ll see how the series goes.”
To reiterate: you have Jackson, among the league’s most vocal coaches, backing off one of his biggest rivals. You have Barnes, among the league’s biggest instigators, refusing to start another war of words between himself and a player, Terry, with whom he has a history. You’ll pardon us for being surprised, though maybe we shouldn’t be. After all, this situation sounds like something Jackson cooked up the manipulate the media and, in so doing, control the narrative of the series.