LOS ANGELES - After Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers addressed members of the media during Friday's interview sessions - both coaches gave their players the day off - several of us engaged in what proved to be an eerily prescient conversation before leaving the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo.
Longtime Atlanta Hawks media director Arthur Triche, who is most well-liked and efficient people in the business, was talking about how his ongoing bout with cancer has taught him "not to sweat the small stuff." Triche, who recently underwent a second surgery and chemotherapy at M.D. Anderson in Houston, says that when someone wants to argue these days, he simply walks away. Only in his 40s, Triche added that, "I don't take the losses nearly as hard as I used to."
At about this point, two league publicists walked over, caught the end of Triche's comments, then mentioned something like, "Yeah, just look at Tim Russert." They then relayed the news of the brilliant CNBC political analyst's passing hours earlier.
As word spread, everyone stood around in shock. Several of the journalists knew Russert personally. One had just hung out with him at a hotel pool about a month ago. But we all wondered whether the constant deadline pressure inherent in the industry contributed (or caused) his heart attack.
Not looking so good, either ....
Jackson has had both hips replaced within the past few years, but he still looks like he's in tremendous pain when he walks. Never graceful to begin with, his gait is awkward, more like a limp than a stroll. The other day I chatted with him as we walked out of the loading docks at Staples Center, and he walked deliberately, with a cane.
How many more years can Our Friend Phil keep this up? The flights, the hotel beds, the pressure, and the frenetic schedule take a toll. And Jackson has had significant physical issues since his playing days with the New York Knicks.
Painful, poignant memories
If the Celtics clinch the series Sunday, Rivers is going to be an emotional wreck. Within the past 13 months, he has experienced the following: been exorciated by Celtics fans, who urged Danny Ainge to find another coach; lost his father to cancer during the regular season; guided a roster with strong-willed veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to within a victory of a title.
When someone asked Doc if he had spent any time ruminating about his close relationship with his father, the Celtics coach completely choked up. After a long pause, he finally said, "That's a tough one for me to talk about."
Pierce asked to defend Kobe in the second half of Game 4, but apparently, that wasn't what was on Kobe's mind early Friday. According to Jackson, who spoke briefly with his players before sending them home, his star was more intrigued by Garnett's post-game comments. (I mentioned them in my blog last night).
In essence, Garnett suggested that the Lakers generally play "team ball" during the first two periods, and "second half is usually, Kobe takes over games. It just looks like they wanted to get the ball to Kobe and sort of let him finish it off ... It didn't really look cohesive."
Jackson didn't elaborate, but you get the picture.