EL SEGUNDO, California – When the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a berth in the Western Conference finals on Monday, Lakers coach Phil Jackson had nothing but praise for his team’s upcoming opponents, the Phoenix Suns, saying that the Suns are playing their best basketball of the season.
On Friday, Jackson retreated from praise and started posturing when asked if it was difficult to simulate the Suns and their star point guard Steve Nash in practice during the long lay-off before Game 1.
“Yeah, because you can’t carry the ball like he does in practice,” Jackson said, smiling as he moved his arm and turned over his palm, the symbol for an illegal carry in the unofficial sign language of basketball.
“You can’t pick that ball up and run with it.”
The 36-year-old Nash is averaging 17.8 points and 9.0 assists per game in the post-season after averaging 13.8 points and 9.0 assists in four regular-season games against LA.
Jackson called Nash the Suns’ “provocateur” in their offence and said the point guard was an equal threat as both a scorer and a distributor, so the Lakers’ defence would have to “balance out,” stopping both aspects of the 14-year veteran’s game.
“He’s a great passer, great penetrator and he’s a great shooter,” Kobe Bryant said.
“You put those things all in one player and now you’re in a situation where you have to pick your poison. They surrounded him with great shooters and finishers to make things very challenging.” (AP)