All eyes are on Curry, but Jackson should choose better words

UPDATED 8:27 p.m. ET, May 2

Mark Jackson said what he said, and there's no taking it back now. Whether you agree or disagree, the goal has been accomplished: All eyes will be on Stephen Curry in Game 6 between the Warriors and Nuggets on Thursday night.

Jackson had a point in that Curry was a marked man in Game 5, as he should have been. When you allow your opponent's best player to be as comfortable and contact-free as Curry was in Game 3 -- when he put on a show in the Warriors' 115-101 victory at home -- you have to make him feel your presence in the next game or you are going home yourself.

"Hitmen?" "Inside information?" "Dirty plays?" A little overly dramatic from where Jackson sits. As he mentioned in his postgame news conference, Jackson was the beneficiary of the messages and elbows delivered by enforcers such as Dale Davis, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason for the better part of his career. If anyone knows that is the name of the game in the playoffs, it would be him.

If this were, say, Phil Jackson or Doc Rivers, they would've found a more, shall we say, delicate way of accomplishing the same goal. Either way, the end result is two-fold: 1) a $25,000 fine from the league office, which came down on Thursday; and 2) the officials' eyes being drawn in the next game to the alleged victim.

Jackson has accomplished his goal and probably will be happy to pay the price. The league said it fined Jackson for "an attempt to influence the officiating."

But let's not do this: Let's not get all puritanical about some hard contact and mind games in a heated, competitive, evenly matched playoff series. Curry had been moving about way too freely in this series, and so a few well-placed elbows and forearms should have been expected. As he said, some of them were called and some weren't. That's playoff basketball.

As for Kenneth Faried, the newly minted winner of the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, sticking his foot out and trying to trip Curry as he moved through the lane? That was a low blow -- an unnecessary and dangerous play. There's no citizenship in that, and no room in the game for it, either -- just as there's no room for Andrew Bogut boxing Faried out by shoving him with two hands in the neck.

So, the eyes of the officials are wide and the attention of the league office focused on Game 6 in Oakland on Thursday night. That's gamesmanship in the playoffs. In part, that's coaching.

Jackson, however, might come to regret his particular choice of words, and it should cost him. The implication that comes with the word "hitmen" is uncomfortably close to the notion of a bounty, which got the NFL embroiled in an embarrassing scandal. Perception-wise, the dots can be too easily connected between the two. For that reason, the league cannot tolerate that kind of inflammatory speech and should act accordingly.

But the practice of making the opponent's best player and most lethal scorer uncomfortable with a hard screen or well-placed forearm as he runs through the lane? That's been around as long as the game has, and that's not going to change.

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