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Questioning Phil Jackson is like talking to a stone wall

The Lakers coach is reluctant to discuss the upcoming series against the Phoenix Suns.

May 10, 2010|T.J. Simers

I'm counting on him, working him like Jeanie for a ring, but all I get is Stonewall Jackson.

I hit him from every direction, Phoenix this and Phoenix that, something that might actually interest folks.

I want to know how much he's looking forward to exacting some revenge from the Suns, who became only the eighth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in 2006, and embarrass Jackson's Lakers.

And they took them out again in 2007, as bad a playoff stretch, I would guess, Jackson has ever experienced.

"I cannot allow myself to speak about Phoenix until the actuality is here," says Stonewall, who sounds as if he's running for office or reading from a prepared statement.

I figure talking about the Valley of the Sun as soon as possible, we've got the chance to get our minds off this wasteland and wasted time in our lives spent here.

As it is, this is going to be the first exhibition playoff game I have ever covered in my career, whoever wins or loses, it really doesn't matter.

The Lakers and Suns will play Monday in Los Angeles, everyone knew that here before this game began; Utah nothing but decaying roadkill.

"A little help," I tell Jackson at the team's afternoon shootaround. "Let's look forward to how much fun it's going to be to play Phoenix."

I should have known better. I asked Phil the first question before the first game with the Jazz back in L.A., "Are you already as bored with this series as the rest of us?"

He knew it wasn't gonna be much of challenge, but he couldn't let himself go and admit it.

If someone had told the Lakers before the season began, they would only have to beat Oklahoma City, Utah with center Kyrylo Fesenko and Phoenix to make the NBA Finals, they might've mailed it in more than they did.

"Surprising," is the way General Manager Mitch Kupchak puts it when asked about Phoenix taking on the Lakers.

Shocking is more like it, the Suns' record even more so since Jan. 28, going 36-9. And 22-4 since March 14.

"So who matches up best with Amare Stoudemire, Phil?"

"I'm not going to talk about that," Jackson says.

A moment later TNT's Craig Sager asks Jackson if he's seen the Salt Lake Tribune and the headline atop the Jazz story: "All hope is lost."

If all hope is lost, I tell Jackson, what about the matchup with Steve Nash?

"You can't leave it alone," he says, and raise your hand if you're still interested in how Andre Kirilenko might make a difference for the Jazz.

Jackson tells someone else, who asks about Sasha Vujacic, he'll be a boost for the bench, so to clarify I want to know if he's saying Sasha will make a big difference against Phoenix.

"He can help us against Utah if this series continues beyond tonight," Stonewall says.

At halftime, the Lakers up by 17, I text the team's public relations director and ask him to ask Phil if he'll talk about the Suns now. He says I'm too late with the text.

I'm counting on Sager to ask him, but he's talking to Jerry Sloan to start the fourth quarter, wondering I guess where Sloan will be playing golf next week.

Marv Albert is talking about Phoenix, TNT is showing the Lakers' 3-1 regular-season advantage as well as Nash highlights, and Reggie Miller is talking about the Suns' bench.

Everyone but Stonewall is talking.

Game over, and I ask, "What about those Suns?"

"That's the first question?" Jackson says. "I'd like to dwell on this series we just finished; maybe at the end of this press conference we'll come back to [the Suns]."

Too late for my deadline.

NBA COMMISSIONER David Stern addressed the media here and began by saying, "It's fun to be in Utah."

He lost me after that.

KUPCHAK IS a funny, funny guy. I think.

We're talking at Monday's shootaround, and he says, "you're lucky," so I bite and ask why.

The day before I joined Plaschke, Turner and Bresnahan at the Lakers' practice, leaving the arena and walking up a long ramp, a wall to our left and as it would turn out the Lakers' bus rolling past us on the right.

"There was quite a discussion on the bus about taking you all out — all the Times' guys were in a nice, little group together," says Kupchak, most of us at The Times trained to surround Plaschke and protect him the best we can.

"I'm not going to tell you the name of the ringleader who was behind it all," says Kupchak, "but lucky for you, cooler heads prevailed."

I tell him I'll probably wait for the bus to leave after the shoot-around before walking up the ramp.

"A wise decision," says Kupchak, and he's kidding. I think.

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