Jackson's blemish caused by Suns
SALT LAKE CITY -- Now that the Lakers swept the Jazz out of the second round, Phil Jackson is 29-1 in playoff series where his team is leading after the first three games. Los Angeles will get a chance to exact some revenge for that little blemish on the losing side of Jackson's record in the Western Conference Finals.
The lone loss came in 2006, when the No. 7 seeded Lakers led the No. 2 seeded Suns 3-1 before becoming one of just eight teams in NBA history to lose a series after winning three of the first four games.
In 2007, the teams met in the first round once more, Phoenix was the two seed again and Los Angeles was the seven and this time it was even more lopsided, with the Suns dropping the Lakers 4-1.
The two series mark the only two first-round exits in the 13 times Kobe Bryant has played in the postseason.
"We still got guys that remember it," Lamar Odom said. "Ask Kobe about it."
The Lakers might have made it to two straight NBA Finals and won a ring since then, but Bryant is still clearly irked by how Phoenix finished two of his seasons earlier than he had planned.
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The reporter pressed again.
"You already know," Bryant said.
So, it still bothers you ...
"Just a little bit."
The Lakers have had considerable success against the Suns since 2007, winning nine of the 12 games the two teams played in the last three regular seasons. But Phoenix is coming off a sweep of the San Antonio Spurs and is playing better than it has in the past and Los Angeles knows it.
"We're very familiar with them [but] the difference between the way they were playing in the regular season and the way they're playing now is just confidence and they believe in what they're doing," Bryant said. "Obviously they became a little more stable after the trading deadline with what Amar'e [Stoudemire] has been doing and they want it. They're very, very hungry."
Ice on, time off
Game 1 of the conference finals is not until Monday, May 17. Some fans might not appreciate the long layoff, but for the Lakers whose starting center has a torn meniscus in his right knee; starting small forward wears a pad on his left shoulder and enough tape on his fingers to pass as an offensive lineman; starting shooting guard has a right knee, left ankle and right index finger that are all problematic; sixth man has a bum right knee that is only overshadowed by a bum left shoulder -- his shooting shoulder; and a bench that can claim a sprained thumb, retinal hole and sore lower back amongst them.
"Six days is great, it's perfect," Ron Artest said while balancing an ice pack on his left shoulder as he shoved an ice pack on his left hip all the while soaking his feet in a bucket of ice water after the game. "We need that. It was perfect timing to play hard today, perfect timing to be playing better, perfect timing to get six days off [without a game]. It's a great chance to heal up. It's beautiful."
Commissioner vs. Zen Master put to bed
NBA Commissioner David Stern was in Salt Lake City for Game 4 and spoke to reporters before the game. During the Lakers first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Stern explained why he fined Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson $70,000 for comments made about the league's officiating and threatened to suspend him if Jackson said anything else. Jackson did say something else, making comments about the referees being swayed by the Ford Center crowd the next day.
No further fine or suspension came from it.
A reporter called Stern a "tough guy" on Monday and asked him why the commissioner didn't suspend Jackson after "challenging" him to speak out again.
"I didn't challenge him," Stern said. "You have to read the language of diplomacy. We understand each other."
Asked if Jackson received special treatment because he was different, Stern said, "No, although everybody is different than him. We have 30 unique head coaches and none is the game and I've learned that in the last 30-some odd years working at the NBA."
While the commissioner admitted that coaches lobbying for certain calls will never cease, he was glad he made the clear line in the sand when he did.
"As you may have noticed, the rhetoric has declined," Stern said. "I think, you know why that is? Not because I'm a tough guy, because maybe some of my coaches subject to a relapse or a slip and even though it is gamesmanship to a certain point, it does impact the game that we all love and that has been pretty good to everybody. And so, there's always a step down."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.