Phil Jackson, Zing Master.
He is known more for his Zen beliefs, but the Lakers' coach is also willing to contradict his pacifying image by slinging a few zingers -- stirring the pot, poking fun, whatever it takes to provide a touch of amusement for himself or a group of reporters.
His latest no-no in the NBA's eyes was a critical review of referees after they failed to make calls benefiting his teenage center, Andrew Bynum, in a game last week in Utah. Jackson was fined $25,000 Wednesday, but it could also help Bynum's cause in the near future. Call it a sound investment in Bynum's development as a player.
Besides, Jackson draws a $10-million salary, made a small fortune two years ago from his best-selling book, and can draw upward of $100,000 for off-season motivational talks, meaning $25,000 to him is comparable to paying a parking ticket for many others.
There have been plenty of examples of Jackson's tweaking, some directed at fans, others at entire cities.
Back when the Lakers, with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, were beginning their three-championship run, Jackson referred to Sacramento Kings fans as "semi-civilized" and called their city a "cow town," a choice of words that led to a few years' of boisterous cowbell-clanging greetings whenever the Lakers played there.
San Antonio has also been a target for Jackson -- he derisively referred to the city a few years back as the land of conventioneers and tourists.
He also irritated New Orleans residents in January despite telling reporters he would not comment on New Orleans because, "I end up commenting about cities and getting on the wrong side of it."
Then he added, "I'll just say, hopefully they've drained the mud out of the [arena] and the termites aren't going to eat the buildings away in between the time we get down there."
They first began their cross-country duel in 2000 when Cuban chided the Lakers for spending more like the Clippers during a slow off-season and accused them of pocketing their profits at the expense of the team.
Jackson's reply to Cuban: "He should keep his mouth shut."
Last season, they went back and forth after Jackson accused Cuban of trying to "sally up points" by intimidating league officials.
Cuban responded with a blog entry titled "I Own Phil Jackson" and questioned why Jackson talked about him so often. "How can the NBA coach with so many championship rings find me so intimidating? I really don't know," Cuban wrote.
To which Jackson responded -- via spoken words -- that Cuban was "so easy to tweak." Jackson also promised to "copyright myself" so Cuban could indeed own him.
More recently, there seems to be a budding cross-the-hall jousting with the Clippers.
Three weeks ago, Jackson said that Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling had unfairly broken many coaching contracts a few years ago, "exacerbating a situation ... that got us angry as a coaches association, but Mike Dunleavy has changed all that and he's got him to fork over some money."
A Clippers spokesman responded by calling Jackson's observations "unfounded rantings," although Jackson seemed undeterred.
Last week, while discussing the growing Lakers-Clippers rivalry, Jackson answered several questions with a straight face, saying how players from the teams went to parties together and how there was a mutual respect "between a lot of the members of both teams."
Then, adding a wrinkle, Jackson assessed each team's ownership.
"I know the owners like each other," he said. "I know that Don Sterling has been eating off of Dr. [Jerry] Buss' plate for years."
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Phil Jackson was issued his fourth reported fine by the NBA since he first took over as head coach of the Lakers in 1999:
Nov. 19, 1999 ($5,000)
* For his critical comments made regarding the referees after the game against Portland.
March 11, 2004 ($50,000)
* For his comments about the referees after the game at Utah. The Lakers were also fined a matching $50,000.
Dec. 15, 2005 ($25,000)
* For violating the league's anti-tampering rule for his comments about the Lakers' possible interest in Toronto forward Chris Bosh.
Nov. 29, 2006 ($25,000)
* For criticizing the referees after last Friday's game at Utah when Jackson said center Andrew Bynum had some tough calls go against him.
Los Angeles Times