The Lakers were a big winner on the floor Friday when Phil Jackson’s team waxed the listless Suns and rudely stomped out the charged atmosphere of opening night at US Airways Center.
But the winner was already rubbing its hands with glee behind the cameras.
Thanks to the end-of-game rift between Jackson and Suns coach Mike D’Antoni – and some pretty pointed comments from D’Antoni, who accused the Lakers of rubbing Phoenix’s nose in a rare lopsided loss – the next Lakers-Suns meeting should have even more pomp and electricity than usual.
And when do the Lakers and Suns next lock horns?
Christmas Day. At Staples Center. On ABC, which couldn’t have found a better present under its tree. Ratings-wise, this might not be as important as Marie Osmond fainting on “Dancing with the Stars,” but it is certainly welcome.
Even if Jackson was showboating – and his post-game smirk said volumes – the Suns won’t find much sympathy around the league. Foes around the league can point to nights when Phoenix was still playing starters deep into the fourth quarter or bombing up 3-pointers (hello Pat Burke, wherever you are) in the final minutes of easy wins.
And if you think Jackson was going to pass on a chance to exact some satisfaction against the only team that has bounced him from the first round of the postseason (twice now), you haven’t been paying attention.
So get the presents opened, the turkeys and hams carved and the goodwill toward men out of the way early this Christmas. The Lakers and Suns tip off at 3 p.m. and ABC will play this most recent rift for all it’s worth.
• Seattle 7-footer Mouhamed Sene was at the end of the Sonics bench Thursday (he would have been inactive if Kurt Thomas had been healthy) and is no closer to playing than when he was taken 10th overall in the 2006 draft.
Hard to believe the Suns offered Seattle three first-round draft picks (so they could move up and take guard Thabo Sefolosha), but the Sonics declined.
• Barry Bonds says that if the Hall of Fame agrees to display his asterisk-adorned 756th home run ball, he will not accept induction. There’s a possible loophole I didn’t see coming. Please, please, please call this Bonds’ bluff. There is no way Barry will follow through; his ego would swallow him whole. And if he does, he can go sit next to Pete Rose at the Cooperstown Mall on induction day.
• It’s time to say something nice about the Coyotes – partly because they deserve it, partly because you never know when you’ll get another chance to praise them.
Phoenix is 4-1 on the road after Friday’s impressive 5-0 win in Dallas. And in a division packed with mediocre teams, the young Dogs could find themselves in the thick of things if they can figure out a way to win at home.
• Is it me, or does the first two weeks of every Suns’ regular season feel just like the first half of an ASU football game?
THE HIGH FIVE
The Rattlers have announced a money-back guarantee to all season-ticket holders if the team doesn’t make the Arena Football League playoffs this year. But they aren’t the only sports team in Arizona who can guarantee something to their fans:
FIVE ASU baseball: One epic Pat Murphy explosion (and subsequent ejection) per season, guaranteed.
FOUR Coyotes: No waiting at concession stands, condiment islands or restrooms (even during Red Wings games).
THREE Cardinals: Guarantee you’ll see a game-winning field goal – for somebody.
TWO Diamondbacks: Guarantee they’re not touching A-Rod with a 350-million-foot pole.
ONE Suns: A Pacific Division championship and home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. After that? No guarantees.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Icing | Tough enough
It took too long to come down, but the NHL’s final sentence on Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet – amounting to a two-year suspension – is about right. Tocchet put a sport that can ill-afford bad publicity in a poor light – and his decision to enter the World Series of Poker while awaiting sentencing was flat-out stupid. Loyal to the end, Wayne Gretzky kept Tocchet’s spot open – but this delays his eventual elevation to head coach.
Nuts | L.A.-Rod
D-Back fans, root for the Dodgers to pursue Alex Rodriguez. ESPN reports that A-Rod was seeking a contract offer worth $350 million from the Yankees – almost $100 million more than the Bombers had in mind. If Big Blue ponies up anything close to that, what will be left to field a team around the guy? Any team willing to even come close to Scott Boras’ extortion tactics deserves what it gets.
Crumbs | Not OKC
Sonics owner Clay Bennett, who never had any intention of keeping the team in Seattle, announced his intentions to bolt for his Oklahoma City home as soon as the monetary grappling can be worked out with Key Arena. No NBA in Seattle? The legacies of Slick Watts, “Downtown” Freddie Brown and Jack Sikma are as much a part of the city’s fabric as the Space Needle. The loyal fans that support this team deserve better.