Phil Jackson begins the mind games with Kevin Durant
It didn’t take long for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to start working the referees.
A day after the Lakers found out they’d play Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs, Jackson pointed out that Thunder forward Kevin Durant got a lot of favorable attention from referees.
“Yeah, by the calls he gets, he really gets to the line a lot, I’ll tell ya,” Jackson said Tuesday. “There’s a couple plays in the last game where I was pretty curious how he got there.”
Durant leads the NBA in scoring (30.1 points a game) and free-throw attempts (10.3 a game). By comparison, Kobe Bryant’s best season ever in free-throw attempts was 10.2 a game in 2005-06.
Jackson called Durant a “special player” earlier this season, but, well, this is the playoffs, so Jackson began the mind games several days before the Lakers faced the Thunder.
Jackson isn’t alone in his thinking, finding an unusual partner in Boston forward Kevin Garnett, who recently cursed when asked about Durant after the Thunder’s 109-104 victory over the Celtics.
“I thought we was playing Michael … Jordan tonight, the way he was getting the whistle,” Garnett said. “Durant damn near shot more free throws than the whole team.”
Durant made 15 of 15 free-throw attempts that night, the Celtics made 13 of 17 and Garnett was fined $25,000 by the NBA for publicly criticizing referees.
Ron Artest showed up to the Tuesday morning shoot-around with a new blond dye job … and it wasn’t his idea.
Artest wasn’t going to color his hair this soon after his forgettable one-game experience with a freshly dyed lid last month in Orlando, but he said he was coerced by reserve center DJ Mbenga, who also had his hair colored blond. They did it together at a local barber shop.
Jackson wasn’t sure what to think when the duo showed up at shoot-around.
“Ron needs to draw attention to himself and this is one of the great ways to do it,” he said. “They’ve taken a lot of abuse for it in the last six hours, I’ll tell you that.”
Said Mbenga: “I’m just trying to have fun. I kind of like it.”
There might be other dye jobs on the way.
Lamar Odom overheard the conversation between Artest and reporters and revealed his plans to A) grow a playoff beard and B) color it blond.
“Hopefully by Sunday,” he said.
Before playing Orlando last month, Artest had the words “defense” etched in his hair in three languages — Japanese, Hebrew and Hindi.
He had it all removed a day later after Vince Carter beat him for 25 points in Orlando’s 96-94 victory.
Bynum still running
Lakers center Andrew Bynum began running on a regular treadmill Tuesday night and still hoped to be back for the playoff opener.
“Today was another step closer to getting on the actual court,” Bynum said.
Bynum has missed 12 games since sustaining a strained left Achilles’ tendon. He planned to take part in practice Friday and Saturday, he said. An official schedule has not been released, but the Lakers expect to play Sunday.
Bynum averaged 19.3 points and shot 62.9% against the Thunder and could “very effective” in the first round, Jackson said.
“His size really hurts them,” he said. “He can have an impact in this series.”
The Lakers will leave North America for the first time since 1991, playing exhibitions in England and Spain in October, the team officially announced.
The Lakers play the Minnesota Timberwolves in London at the O2 Arena on Oct. 4 and play Regal FC Barcelona at Palau Sant Jordi on Oct. 7 in Barcelona.
The Lakers played two exhibitions against French teams in Paris in 1991.
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.