Phil Jackson lays out the bear facts
This was the analogy Lakers Coach Phil Jackson offered to detail how the matchup between Ron Artest and Oklahoma City All-Star forward Kevin Durant could unfold during the Western Conference playoffs:
“Some nights the hunter will get the bear and some nights the bear might get the hunter,” Jackson said after practice Saturday.
Assuming the bear is Durant and the hunter is Artest, the Lakers probably wouldn’t want to see the bear get the better of the hunter too often.
It was assumed Jackson was referring to Artest when he finished his analogy by saying, “He’s going to have an effect.”
Artest and Durant will begin their tango Sunday in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series at Staples Center.
In Artest’s eyes, this is “not like something new” for him to defend the opposition’s top offensive threat. Artest reminded all that he’s been defending “the best player most of my career.”
At 21, Durant became the youngest player to lead the league in scoring, averaging 30.1 points per game.
Against the Lakers during four-regular season games, Artest and the Lakers limited Durant to almost five points below his average, to 25.4 points on 46.3% shooting.
“It’s really going to come down more to the Lakers and Oklahoma City,” Artest said. “It’s not going to come down to an individual matchup. That’s not going to be the key to winning. It’s going to really come down to the team.”
Artest is 6-7, 260 pounds and Durant is 6-9, 230.
Artest has the weight and strength advantage, but Durant is longer.
That makes the matchup even more intriguing.
Artest has been known to get under an opponent’s skin with his physical defense, but he claimed not to sense that.
“People say that all the time, that I get under people’s skin, but that was never a plan,” Artest said. “I don’t know how I do that, but it was never a plan. I play defense head-on. I don’t play as aggressive as I used to play. I’m not like face to face like I used to be. I’m a little bit more calculated. I don’t know if I’m getting under anybody’s skin at all. I’m just trying to get stops.
“I’m going to hold myself accountable definitely for what I do. But we’re definitely a unit and we don’t feel like losing is an option.”
Bryant, Bynum ready to play
After another “really good” practice Saturday, his second consecutive after not playing since March 19 because of a strained left Achilles’ tendon, Andrew Bynum said he was ready to start Sunday.
Asked how ready he was for the game, Bynum gave an interesting answer.
“Physically, I’m there. I’m fine,” Bynum said. “Mentally, I’m still looking around. My timing, I’ve got to get that back.”
Jackson said Kobe Bryant, who missed the last two regular-season games recovering from a sore left ankle, swelling in his right knee and a tender right index finger, was doing just fine.
So what if the Lakers lost seven of their last 11 regular-season games.
They posted the best record in the West and are intent on keeping the NBA crown they won last season.
“We’ve promised ourselves and we’ve committed to each other that we’re not going to allow this opportunity to just be here and be gone,” Derek Fisher said. “We’re going to make the most of it and we’re going to do everything individually and collectively to give ourselves an opportunity to win another championship.
“That’s what this was all about when the season started in October, and tomorrow is our first real step, in terms of playoff, toward repeating.”