It's never too early to start working the referees.
Tuesday at shootaround, Phil Jackson was asked if he believes Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (Durantula!) has arrived as one of the true stars the league has to offer. He seemed to agree, at least on one level. "By the calls he gets," PJ smiled. "He really gets to the line a lot. There (were) a couple plays in the last game I was pretty curious as to how he got there."
During the pregame media klatch, Jackson reiterated the point for the benefit of those media who weren't there earlier in the afternoon. "As far as calls he gets on the floor, I think a lot of referees are treating him like a superstar," he said. "He gets to the line easily and often."
Incidentally, I left that little bit about Andrew Bynum in the clip because I thought Phil's response was interesting, but I digress. It seems pretty clear Jackson is trying to accomplish two things, here. First, he's massaging the refs, implying strongly Durant is the beneficiary of more calls than he should get. Second, he's sending a message to his own team: Don't focus on whistles when it comes to OKC's star. He's going to get a few. Play through it.
The latter is something Jackson and his staff have tried to drill home all season when it comes to officiating, with varying degrees of success.
How much Durant gets to the line is undoubtedly going to play a major role in the series. He's a 90-percent free throw shooter averaging a league-leading 10.3 freebies a game. The Lakers, conversely, have been extremely successful keeping the opposition off the stripe.
Something, in theory at least, has to give.