Not many coaches were friends with Phil Jackson, but George Karl formed an amiable bond with him when Karl's son, Coby, played with the Lakers for a year.
So maybe it's not surprising that Karl has jumped into the role of chief psychologist in the first-round series between the Lakers and Denver Nuggets.
He doesn't have the same skill as Jackson, who would tweak referees, David Stern, Mark Cuban and then more referees without thinking twice about writing a check if Stern fined him.
But Karl is up to something in the second year of Jackson's absence in the NBA playoffs since 1990.
He accused Lakers center Andrew Bynum of playing illegal defense after Game 1 and pooh-poohed the Staples Center crowd for being soft and silent, comparing it to a "Broadway stage" before Game 2.
Then after his Nuggets created a near-scare in a 104-100 Lakers win Tuesday, Karl ignored Xs and O's for XOXOs. "I'm looking very much forward to Friday night," he said, despite his team's 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series. "I think my team made a big step."
He added: "You saw us play a lot of Nuggets basketball."
The next two games will be Friday and Sunday in Denver.
Karl liked the Nuggets' doubling up the Lakers in fastbreak points (30 to 15) in Game 2 and almost coming back from a 19-point deficit. They also ripped a page from the Lakers' typical domination by beating them in rebounds, 52-48.
"They're bigger than we are, they're heavier than we are and we just have got to rebound the ball," he said, doing everything but wagging a finger at his team even though the Nuggets beat the Lakers in second-chance points, 26-19.
The Lakers' bench also deserted them again in Game 2, being outscored, 35-8. Starter Devin Ebanks made only two of seven shots in place of suspended Metta World Peace. It's a good thing they have Kobe Bryant, Bynum and Pau Gasol.
"It's tough when you play against us because there is legitimately three guys on the post you have to double-team," Bryant said.
Subpar fastbreak and rebounding stats aside, there's a lot to like for Lakers fans.
The Lakers are 42-1 when holding a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series, their lone misstep the 1969 NBA Finals against Boston. They're also 4-1 in playoff games in Denver since acquiring Gasol in 2008.
It's safe to say they don't want to return to Staples Center for a Game 5.
"Game 3 is going to be big," Bynum said. "I understand what that game could mean if we win it, so just go out and play aggressive."
Gasol hasn't had the scoring numbers of Bynum and Bryant in this series, but he leads the team with 6.5 assists a game and is averaging nine rebounds in the first round.
"I'm trying to fulfill my role as best I can," Gasol said. "I don't get as many looks as I used to, especially down in the post because Andrew is taking up a lot of that and being effective. So, I try and take advantage of my opportunities and then also use my skills and my talent to get guys involved and facilitate."
Gasol has taken 24 shots against Denver, fourth on the team behind Bryant (53), Bynum (27) and Ramon Sessions (27).
Gasol is also fourth in scoring, averaging 13 points in the first round. Bryant (34.5 points), Bynum (18.5) and Sessions (14) are ahead of him.
Hill's court date
A felony hearing for Lakers forward Jordan Hill was rescheduled until June 8, according to the Harris County, Texas, district attorney's office. An attorney for Hill appeared in a Houston courthouse Tuesday and asked for the case to be continued to next month.
Hill was charged with a third-degree felony Monday for allegedly choking his girlfriend on Feb. 29, according to court documents. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Hill, 24, was with the Houston Rockets at the time of the alleged incident. He has recently become a reliable rotation player for the Lakers, averaging eight points and 10 rebounds in the first two games of the Nuggets series.
"When I got the phone call [about the case], I was definitely shocked, just like everybody else was," he said Tuesday.