One of Phil Jackson’s favorite motivational ploys is to show his players an inspirational scene from a movie before a big game.
However, the Los Angeles Lakers coach was not impressed Thursday after witnessing what he deemed to be a dramatic acting performance by Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce.
The plot in Game 1 of the NBA Finals thickened in the third quarter when Pierce strained his right knee, crawled on the floor in agony, was carried to the bench by teammates and put in a wheelchair for a ride to the locker room.
A short while later, Pierce jogged back to the court and lifted the Celtics to a 98-88 victory. Accused of flashing gang signs during a playoff game in Atlanta, Pierce is now accused of faking an injury.
Jackson, sarcastic and skeptical, said Friday: “Paul got carried off and was back on his feet in a minute. He didn’t even limp when he came back out on the floor. I don’t know what was going on there. Was Oral Roberts back there in their locker room?”
Predictably, the media in Boston and Los Angeles treated Pierce differently. The Boston Herald hailed Pierce as the “Celtics’ Captain Comeback.”
In the Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke said Pierce’s miraculous recovery “smacked more of professional wrestling than professional basketball. He was so hurt, he immediately began sprinting around the stunned Lakers defenders. Afterward, Pierce played the part of the resurrected hero, shaking his head at the wonder of it all.”
• Pierce is among Jackson’s many targets. Jackson always enjoys needling people, and he made a memorable movie reference that earned him a reprimand from the NBA in November after a Lakers loss at San Antonio.
“We call this a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ game, because there’s so much penetration and kickouts,” Jackson said, referring to the 2005 film that depicts two cowboys who conceal a homosexual affair.
Jackson called it a “poor attempt at humor” but offered a less-than-sincere apology. “If I’ve offended any horses, Texans, cowboys or gays, I apologize,” he said.
• Bud Selig, the socially inept baseball commissioner, made a thankfully rare public appearance Thursday. He announced the picks for the first round of the amateur draft, and unintentionally added a comedic element to the ESPN2 telecast.
Selig’s role, presumably, was meant to help promote the draft as a big-time event. Other commissioners, the NFL’s Roger Goodell and the NBA’s David Stern, do the same routine. But in no way did Selig seem to enjoy the duty.
He trudged out from behind a curtain, hair messed up and scowling. He stared down at a piece of paper and read the names with the eloquence of a grumpy old man. “The Detroit Tigers have the next pick, and they’re on the clock,” he growled.
Herman Munster once was described as an affable buffoon. Selig is Herman Munster minus the affable part.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS REVIEW-JOURNAL