On Wednesday Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson told reporters that Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant receives preferential treatment from referees. Jackson said, “Yeah by the calls he gets, he really gets to the line a lot, I’ll tell ya.”
Durant, being the young, budding superstar that he is, totally took the bait and responded … poorly. The third-year forward and newly crowned NBA scoring champ wasn’t happy. Durant said, “Because it’s taking away from what I do. That’s a part of my game, getting to the free-throw line and being aggressive. If you say that I get superstar calls or I get babied by the refs, that’s just taking away from how I play. That’s disrespectful to me.”
Ugh, Kevin, meet me in paragraph four.
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.
I’m fine with it because I grew up in southern California and am a huge Lakers fan, but it irks me when players react to this kind of thing so negatively, when it’s an obvious ploy to get them to react negatively.
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.
Kevin, you’re 21-years-old, you should be honored by the fact that Jackson even knows your name. The fact that he does and specifically commented on your game means you’re on his radar. You should understand that he’s going to do something to try and throw you off your game. The guy is a master at using the press to his advantage.
By not understanding that and falling into his trap you proved that maybe you’re not 100 percent ready for superstardom. Superstars understand all the tricks of the trade and how to avoid these kinds of traps. Clearly you’ve still got some learning to do. Which is fine, you’re only in your third year, but act like a superstar when you’re clearly not on that level mentally yet.
Also, I know you have an “aggressive” style of play, but Jackson may have a point. You took an NBA-high 840 free throws this season . That’s 24 more than Dwight Howard, 67 more than LeBron James, 138 more than Dwyane Wade, 228 more than Carmelo Anthony and 254 more than Dirk Nowitzki. Several of those guys could be said to have “aggressive” styles as well and you wen to the line more often than them. So it’s not outrageous that Mr. Jackson would question some calls in your favor.
Kevin, I like you man, I really do. You’re a good kid, a phenomenal talent and you have a great career in front of you. That said, for your own sake and that of your team, grow up a little.