Ron Artest wasn’t the only conflict Phil Jackson addressed on Tuesday.
An old rival, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, took issue with Jackson’s recent declaration that the Mavericks would find it “very hard” to win consistently without injured forward Caron Butler, who was lost for the rest of the season because of a knee injury.
“I love that Jeanie Buss’ boy toy had something to say about us,” Cuban told reporters in Dallas. “I don’t know if it was his thought or Jeanie’s thought, but it’s nice to know that she lets him speak in public about other teams.”
Buss is a Lakers executive and also Jackson’s longtime companion.
Jackson shrugged off Cuban’s retort.
“Mark must be really worried. If he’s got to comment on that, he must be really worried,” he said. “I feel badly for him. That’s what I was saying. It’s hard to replace a player that good. And so they do have a good player that’s sitting behind him. Shawn [Marion] is a fine player, but it’s not Caron Butler and so it’s hard to replace a player like that.”
Buss considers Cuban a friend and chided him mildly on Tuesday.
“It’s like saying, ‘Let’s make fun of Phil,’ like ‘You’re old’ or ‘You’re tall.’ It’s like, ‘That’s all you can come up with?’ I got a kick out of it, but maybe Mark just did it to make me giggle. I am Madonna now and Phil is my boy toy.”
Said Jackson: “I consider myself an old man. I’m a boy toy? That’s terrific.”
Jackson and Artest had words at a recent practice about Jackson’s continual public criticism of Artest, but Jackson and Cuban have had plenty of battles in the past.
They first began dueling in 2000 when Cuban scolded 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 at the time: “He should keep his mouth shut.”
During the 2005-06 season, they went back and forth again after Jackson said Cuban was trying to “sally up points” by intimidating league referees.
Cuban responded with a blog entry titled “I Own Phil Jackson” and wondered aloud why Jackson talked about him so often. “How can the NBA coach with so many championship rings find me so intimidating?” Cuban wrote.
Jackson responded that Cuban was “so easy to tweak” and promised to “copyright myself” so Cuban could indeed own him.
Brown not dunking
Lakers guard Shannon Brown was not selected to the dunk contest during All-Star weekend next month at Staples Center.
He seemed fine with it.
“I never said nothing to nobody about it. I wasn’t really too interested,” Brown said. “The way we’re going right now, the team is more important. I can jump, man, but I’ve never been a person to really talk about my jumping ability because the game of basketball and the skill part of it has always been what I’ve been trying to get better at.”
Bresnahan is a Times staff writer. Medina is a Times correspondent.