Just when you thought all the entertainment value had been sucked from the Lakers' Game 2 blowout of the Blazers on Thursday, Mark Jackson and George Karl came to the rescue with the beef of all former-coach beef. It started, apparently, when Jackson, during ESPN's broadcast, praised Carmelo Anthony's defensive effort by saying the "people who killed Carmelo Anthony for his defense in the past, they were wrong."
Melo has had many detractors over the years as it pertains to his defense, or lack thereof, so it's hard to be sure Jackson was taking a stab at Karl in particular with this first comment. But it didn't end there. When Jackson's color partner, Jeff Van Gundy, disputed Jackson's claim, saying he didn't believe the people that questioned Melo's defense in the past were wrong, but that Anthony has dialed up his commitment on that end with Portland, Jackson re-countered with this:
"OK, I'll tell you this, then there's a shared responsibility for whoever allowed that defense to be played," Jackson said. "Because for some reason, he is bought in with this [Portland] culture. And he's committed to it."
Again, there's no irrefutable evidence that Jackson is talking about Karl here, but the list of candidates shrunk considerably when Jackson said "whoever allowed the defense to be played." So we're not talking about Twitter idiots or advanced stat bloggers at this point. Jackson was talking, pretty clearly, about one of Melo's former coaches. Karl, who was extremely critical of Anthony's attitude and defense in his 2017 memoir, "Furious George," certainly felt Jackson was taking a shot at him, and he responded by coming off the top rope with the following absolutely ruthless Twitter response.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a mic drop. This is B Rabbit reminding the Free World that Papa Doc's real name is Clarence. Technically, Jackson could fire back with the fact that his Warriors eliminated Karl's Nuggets in the 2013 playoffs, but after Karl's "How many of my teams became dynasties right after I left?" comment, that would be like taking a squirt gun into a war. Just surrender. There's no recovering from that.
This is obviously touchy territory with Jackson, who watched Steve Kerr, in his first year taking over, with virtually the exact same roster Jackson had at his disposal, take the Warriors from 51 to 67 wins and from a first-round loss to the organization's first NBA championship in 40 years. If Jackson wants to talk about a coach "sharing responsibility" for the shortcomings of his players, he might want to take a gander at the Warriors' 12th overall offensive ranking when he left office.
After all, not being able to pull good defense out of a historically awful and decidedly uncommitted defender like Carmelo Anthony is not an indictment. On the other hand, not being able to put even a top-10 offense together with Stephen Curry on your team is ... well, let's just say Jackson hasn't gone six years without getting another coaching opportunity by accident.
Karl has a history with Jackson, who suggested after Game 5 of the aforementioned 2013 Denver-Golden State playoff series that he had "inside information" that Karl's Nuggets were trying to hurt Curry. It was widely assumed that Andre Iguodala, who wound up leaving the Nuggets that summer for the Warriors, was Jackson's mole. Karl fanned that flame again as recently as a month ago.
If you're interested, here's what Karl wrote in his book about Anthony:
"Carmelo was a true conundrum for me in the six years I had him. He was the best offensive player I ever coached. He was also a user of people, addicted to the spotlight and very unhappy when he had to share it.
"He really lit my fuse with his low demand of himself on defense. He had no commitment to the hard, dirty work of stopping the other guy. My ideal — probably every coach's ideal — is when your best player is also your leader. But since Carmelo only played hard on one side of the ball, he made it plain he couldn't lead the Nuggets, even though he said he wanted to. Coaching him meant working around his defense and compensating for his attitude.
"I want as much effort on defense -- maybe more -- as on offense. That was never going to happen with Melo, whose amazing ability to score with the ball made him a star but didn't make him a winner. Which I pointed out to him. Which he didn't like."
For the record, yes, Karl has led a team to the NBA Finals (1996 Seattle SuperSonics), coached two Defensive Player of the Year winners (Gary Payton in 1996, Marcus Camby in 2007), coached in four All-Star Games (1994, 1996, 1998, 2010), and been named NBA Coach of the Year (2013).
Mark Jackson, for the record, hasn't done any of those things.