Jackson, D'Antoni exchange jabs

Times Staff Writers

It’s not like the Lakers’ rivalry with the Phoenix Suns needed any more fire, but, well, Christmas Day should certainly be entertaining.

Phil Jackson and Phoenix Coach Mike D'Antoni won’t be exchanging Secret Santa gifts that afternoon, which will mark the next chapter in the ever-evolving series of uppercuts between the Lakers and the three-time defending Pacific Division champions.

The latest tiff came Friday in the waning minutes of the Lakers’ 119-98 victory over the Suns, with Jackson calling a timeout after D'Antoni called one with 4 minutes 45 seconds to play and the Lakers ahead, 111-81.


D'Antoni wasn’t amused, gesticulating at Jackson and reminding him the teams play each other three more times this season.

Afterward, he said Jackson “disrespected our players” and might want to save the mind games for the playoffs, “when we bust them every year.”

The Suns and Lakers each had to call a mandatory timeout in the fourth quarter. Jackson chose to use his right after D'Antoni used his, leading to a lag time of about eight minutes.

Jackson and D'Antoni each shoved another log onto the fire at their Saturday practices.

“Yeah, I’m sure he’s upset about the game and everything else, but when you have an obligatory timeout coming in a minute, you might as well get rid of both of them,” Jackson said. “It’s like mercy killing.”

Will Jackson try to clear up any misunderstandings with D'Antoni before their Dec. 25 game at Staples Center?

“No. He has to figure that out on his own.”

Was D'Antoni a little too emotional?

“Yeah, well, it gave me a better understanding, perhaps, of him.”

And that was?

“Well, that his immediate response is to think it was about him and not about his team.”

D'Antoni didn’t exactly sit on his hands Saturday, responding to Jackson’s timeout explanation by telling reporters in Phoenix, “He probably should have come check down with us before he did this. . . . I’m not mad at him or mad at anybody else, but we will remember.”

D'Antoni said he felt embarrassed because he had nothing further to say to his team when the second timeout was called.

“So now, we’re looking around like idiots,” he said. “We were 30 down. We’re already idiots. Now, we really look like idiots. It’s something I thought he could have avoided. He chose to do that, and that’s fine.

“Hopefully, we’ll have the same opportunity to give it back to him. Plus, if he wants to play mind games with us . . . I don’t even have a mind, so what’s the difference? That’s not going to work.”

The Lakers and Suns have had their share of intrigue and insult over the last two seasons.

The Suns stole the Lakers’ playoff hopes in 2006, becoming only the eighth team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven series after trailing, 3-1.

They faced each other again in the first round last season, the Lakers this time fueled by the book “:07 Seconds or Less,” an all-access account of the Suns that included several scenes in which Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in general were panned by the Suns.

Jackson was perceived as arrogant and Bryant was described by Suns coaches as taking too many chances in the open court. Most telling, Suns owner Robert Sarver was quoted as saying, “I hate those guys.”

The book didn’t help the Lakers, who lost meekly in five games.


The Lakers definitely didn’t look timid Friday, out-rebounding the Suns, 54-34, and receiving a 67-point effort from their reserves, the biggest output from their bench since a 70-point outburst in April 1997 against Golden State.

It was the type of victory that made one wonder whether Bryant might change his mind with a few more blowouts.

“Well, that was the hope, that we get off to a good start,” Jackson said. “Yeah, that’s something that’s always a possibility, but we are not taking anything for granted. We just want to tend to what the business is today and do that, get it over with, and move on.”


Center Kwame Brown did not practice Saturday because of a respiratory infection.



vs. Utah, 6:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

Records -- Lakers 1-1, Jazz 2-1.

Record vs. Jazz (2006-07) -- 2-1.

Update -- The Jazz was one of the surprise teams in the league last season. Derek Fisher averaged 10.1 assists and 3.3 assists for the Jazz before signing a three-year, $14-million contract with the Lakers.