Press Association Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has been friends with Jose Mourinho for a long time, so knows better than to get caught up in his Chelsea counterpart’s mind games. The pair grew close during their time working together at Barcelona as part of Louis van Gaal’s backroom team in the late 1990s. Koeman has fond memories of that time and the “very ambitious” Portuguese, even if he was “quiet” back then – an adjective rarely used when describing the Chelsea boss nowadays. Koeman knows such controversial comments stem from a desire to protect his players, pointing to Mourinho’s success everywhere he has been as proof that it works. “In every sport and every business if you are one of the top managers then you have to live with critics, both negative and positive,” he said. “But if you look at his CV, it tells you enough. He’s very successful and always has a good spirit in his teams. “If you speak to players who have worked with Mourinho, they always are very positive about it and impressed with the way he does his job as a manager.” Koeman is looking forward to facing his former colleague at Stamford Bridge, where he will be hoping things will go better than his only other trip there as a manager, Valencia’s 1-0 Champions League loss in December 2007. As well as Spain, the Dutchman also spent time coaching in Portugal and his homeland before joining Saints last summer – a first voyage into English football and one he made without speaking to his old friend. “I met different people and always they were very positive about the Premier League, about the possibility of the teams and the intensity in the games,” Koeman said. “But I wasn’t calling him or other people to ask about the job because the feeling with the club and with the people of the club was more important.” The pair have remained friends ever since and go head to head on Sunday, when Koeman leads surprise package Southampton out at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho courted controversy after the reverse fixture in December by claiming there was a “clear campaign” against Chelsea – inflammatory comments which were followed by the Portuguese showing a softer side. “I spoke with him for 10 or 15 minutes after the home game with them, about life, about England,” Koeman said. “Maybe your opinion is different than if you see someone on the television. He’s a great person and a very successful manager. “In my opinion he’s a nice person, but I’ve got the possibilities to have time to talk about different things in life. “Maybe one side is what he likes to say or what he likes to do after the game. The other is the relation between two people. “I think that’s the difference, but sometimes he is playing a game. Everybody knows that. “If it is done in a respectful way, then I don’t have problems with that.”
Yet Jackson said he will “build our team on free agents,” before arguing the NBA should increase the age limit for college prospects because of how long it takes to develop. Meanwhile, Scott conceded that “90 percent” of his focus entails evaluating talent. TNT may have dropped the Lakers-Knicks game. The crowd at Staples Center may have made the most noise when Jackson sat next to Buss at her courtside seat to watch the game during the third quarter. But some significant things emerged regarding that evaluation. Lakers forward Jordan Hill, who has a $9 million team option, had 19 points and a 10 rebounds. Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson experienced a rare off night with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting and one assist. Lakers rookie center Tarik Black posted 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Lakers guard Jabari Brown finished with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in what marked his first appearance since the team acquired him from the Development League.“The draft, the free agency stuff, the trades, all that stuff are very important,” Scott said. “You have to hit home runs in all of them to get to the next level.” After finishing with a 26-56 record in Scott’s first season as coach in New Jersey, the Nets acquired Jason Kidd and made two consecutive NBA Finals appearances. “I was lucky and blessed in that situation,” Scott said. “It doesn’t happen overnight and everybody has to understand that.” Just as Scott advised, it seems Fisher understands that.“A patience level is good with the appropriate things,” Fisher said. “I’m not going to be patient with a lack of effort or lack of intensity or guys not being committed to the team. But I’ll be patient with the process we’re going through. We’re just getting that started.” The Knicks (13-51) have better odds at ending with a higher pick.That does not match what Phil Jackson envisioned when he became the Knicks president last season after winning five of his 11 NBA championships coaching the Lakers in two separate stints (1999-2004, 2005-2011). “It’s not something I wanted to do,” Jackson said before referring to the advice of longtime companion and Lakers president Jeanie Buss. “It’s something my partner said, ‘You’re sitting on all this information. Come on out and destroy a basketball team that you love.’ So that’s what I’ve done.”Jackson was joking, of course. But he described his stint with the Knicks as a “project gone awry.”This season, the Knicks lost a franchise-record 16 consecutive games. Carmelo Anthony became limited this season on an injured left knee before shutting down after the NBA All-Star break. Jackson sparked criticism for trading All-Star center Tyson Chandler last summer to Dallas. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error The two men once became accustomed to hoisting up NBA trophies with their hands and flashing championship rings on their fingers. But there Lakers coach Byron Scott and New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher stood on the same sideline two months ago, sharing another thing in common that hardly makes either proud.Both of their respective teams rank among the worst in the NBA. So after holding Fisher in high esteem since mentoring him during Fisher’s rookie season with the Lakers 19 years ago, Scott offered him some support.“ ‘Hang in there,’ ” Scott recalled saying. “ ‘I know exactly what you’re going through and it’s going to get better.’ ”Fisher could say the same thing to Scott. The Lakers lost to the New York Knicks, 101-94, on Thursday at Staples Center, marking their sixth defeat in the past seven games. Yet the Lakers (17-47) own the NBA’s fourth-worst record, giving them an 82.8 percent chance of retaining their top-five protected pick, which is otherwise owed to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash deal with Phoenix.