OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson believes commissioner David Stern's threat of harsher punishments for comments critical of NBA referees was a "heavy-handed" way to deal with what he called "gamesmanship" by coaches in the playoffs.
Stern issued a "make my day" warning to the league's players and coaches while doling out a round of fines to players and coaches on the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics on Thursday. Jackson has been fined $35,000 twice this month, most recently for commenting about the fouls called against players guarding Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, who led the NBA in free throws this season.
The Lakers lead their best-of-seven series against the Thunder 2-1 entering Game 4 on Saturday night.
"When you start throwing one- and two-game suspensions in the threats, I think that means a lot to both ball clubs and to coaches," Jackson said before practice Friday. "It seems awful heavy-handed to me, but David is one, he isn't shy about being heavy-handed.
"There's a certain gamesmanship that goes on that obviously he feels cheapens the game."
Stern said Thursday night that he wished he could go back two decades and start issuing fines and suspensions against Jackson and former rival Pat Riley to eliminate "corrosive" comments that erode fans' trust in NBA officiating.
"It's not an objective thing. We try to make it objective, but it's subjective," Jackson said. "People definitely lean a certain way. I think statistically you could prove that. But we try to do the best we can do, and I think the referees do a good job with what they've got."
Jackson said a key to the Lakers' Game 3 loss to Oklahoma City was that the Thunder shot 22 more free throws. But he credited that discrepancy to more aggressive play by the home team.
Kobe Bryant didn't attempt a single free throw, after failing to get to the foul line only three times in 73 regular-season games, but hesitated to address why while sitting at the same podium where Stern had issued his threat only hours earlier.
"I'm not quite sure how to answer that," Bryant said. "Yeah. Both teams played hard."