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Lakers' Steve Blake vs. fan leads to a fine

A tiff with a heckler at Staples Center results in a $25,000 penalty against the L.A. guard and raises questions: Who is right and who is wrong?

Bill Plaschke

9:35 PM PST, November 6, 2012

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Of all the wacko things that have happened at the start of this Lakers season, this one takes the raspberry cake.

One of their nicest players has been fined $25,000 for cursing out a heckler who happens to be one of their best fans.

Between the point guard's broken leg, the head coach's hot seat and their star's demand that everyone just shut up, this is the mother of all weirdness.

Steve Blake has been punished by the league office for yelling at Lance Jackson, the adult son of Steve Jackson, a footwear mogul and longtime Lakers fan known for his block of eight courtside seats.

Next thing you know, Laker Girls will be sprouting whiskers.

Said Blake: "It's one of those moments you're not proud of."

Said Lance Jackson: "I'm just sorry it got to this point."

That's not exactly what they were saying to each other during Friday night's Lakers loss to the Clippers at Staples Center. While playing for the injured Steve Nash, Blake was struggling, hitting just two of his six shots while the Lakers were falling to 0-3.

According to Jackson, he was shouting to Blake about "making your open shots." Another source says t Jackson was actually peppering his message with personal expletives. In the final minute of the game, Blake began firing back, shouting at Jackson from across the court, then actually approaching his courtside seat and cursing directly at him after fouling out with 29.2 seconds remaining.

It was such a stunning scene, the personable Blake angrily confronting a member of one of the Lakers' first families, that the Lakers announcers gave a blow-by-blow on television.

Said analyst Stu Lantz: "Are you kidding me?"

Said play-by-play announcer Bill Macdonald: "That didn't look like a friendly conversation."

Added Lantz: "Not at all, if you walk across the floor to talk to someone in the first row. But also you have to wonder what the fan was saying to him."

The tiff became news Tuesday when Blake was officially fined $25,000 by the NBA for directing inappropriate language toward a fan. It was the first time in his 10-year career that he's been cited for bad behavior with a fan.

Interestingly, Steve Jackson probably spends about $25,000 each night on tickets. He is such a Lakers fan, his Bel-Air home contains a replica of the Staples Center court that is sometimes used by visiting teams for a secluded practice. This is also the first time in his more than three decades as a season ticket-holder that any member of his family has been in the news for harassing players.

All of which would have placed the Lakers in a major quandary — do they support their important player, or their valued fan? — except they finally caught a break.

Lance Jackson and his father reached out to Blake in hopes of clearing the air, and Blake reached back. They met Tuesday in an office at the Lakers practice facility, where Blake apologized, and the apology was accepted.

Said Blake: "I didn't have to do it, but they didn't have to reach out as well, and it shows what kind of character they have."

Said Lance Jackson: "Steve seems like a great person, it all happened at the heat of the moment."

Now that the heat has dissipated, questions remain. Who is right here? Who is wrong? Is it as simple as a player never being allowed to talk back to anyone in the crowd? Or do those in charge of controlling the crowd ever bear some of the responsibility?

When Jackson began his taunting, Blake had already been pushed to the edge with a slew of nasty jeers and threats. In last season's playoffs, after he missed an open three-point attempt in the final minutes that would have given the Lakers a Game 2 victory in Oklahoma City, Blake and his wife Kristen were brutally taunted on Twitter, including one tweet that read, "I hope your family gets murdered." Blake revealed Tuesday he received another Twitter death threat this preseason, and that he has long since alerted his local police department and Lakers security of potential problems.

"Unfortunately, yeah, in the back of my mind, everything builds up to an explosion sometimes," he said. "I try to move past it, but sometimes it's tough."

Blake quickly acknowledged that his past issues were no excuse, however, and owned up to his mistake.

"Part of our job is that fans can yell at you, heckle you, things like that, and you have to remain professional," he said. "Unfortunately, I didn't, and I want people to know that from this point on, I will carry myself better."

Good for him. Blake's sense of accountability is why he is so respected in the locker room. So it ends here. Or does it?

Does Lance Jackson's behavior, if it indeed included the profane personal attack that one source claimed, also bear some scrutiny here? Jackson's father pays enough money that his family should be allowed to say whatever it wants, but are the courtside customers subject to the same form of crowd control as those in less pricey sections? You would hope that if Jackson were being insulting and inciting, Staples Center red coats would have warned him just as they would have warned some cursing loudmouth in the upper deck.

"It's a frustrating time, the Lakers had fallen to 0-3," said Lance. "But at the end of the day, it was a misunderstanding, and we move on."

Indeed they do, moving further into a season growing more combustible by the moment as increasingly impatient and angry fans mix it up with increasingly frustrated players.

The only thing in general agreement is, Steve Blake really does need to make those open shots.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke