Jackson apologizes to Maloofs for comparison to MLB's McCourts

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LOS ANGELES -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been known to pen a phrase or two.

His first of many books, "Take it All," was written in 1970 and his last, "Journey to the Ring," came in 2010. But when he put his author hat on recently, he had a much different purpose.

Jackson confirmed before Monday's Western Conference semifinal opener against Dallas that he wrote a letter of apology to the Maloof family that owns the Sacramento Kings. Jackson had recently compared the Maloofs to the McCourt family that had its Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise taken over by Major League Baseball because of financial strife, indicating that perhaps it would be needed for the NBA to take over the Kings situation as they contemplated a move to Anaheim.

Asked if he wrote the letter himself, Jackson quipped, "I had a gun to my head, but I did it," while sparking laughter in the room full of media.

The Maloofs, who decided to keep the team in Sacramento for at least one more season on Monday, never found Jackson to be very funny.

AMICK: Kings stay, but big hurdle looms

The comment was made April 20, but it wasn't reported beyond a paraphrased reference on Twitter that was made by Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins. The Kings struggled to find reliable evidence of the comment during the early stages of their investigation and eventually sent an attorney to the home of the Orange County Register's Janis Carr to retrieve an audiotape. While she did not relinquish the tape, the newspaper did publish a story about the visit that included a quote in its entirety.

"Oh, man. I think [the Dodgers takeover is] the same thing with the Maloofs in Sacramento, a similar situation there," Jackson had said. "I can see where the league had to step in and monitor that."

A source close to the Maloof family said the team was informed that Jackson received a hefty fine for one of his recent Kings-related comments. A source close to Jackson also said that was the case, and league spokesman Tim Frank confirmed that the fine was for Jackson's McCourt comment.

While the Maloofs looked petty and thin-skinned as a result of the news, there was a bigger picture in play. The Maloofs, according to sources, were in the process of gathering possible evidence for an antitrust lawsuit in case they filed for relocation and were blocked by the NBA.

The possible assertion was that the lack of discipline administered to Jackson indicated a silent approval of his sentiments on the part of the league, although the Maloofs ultimately opted against the dangerous strategy. It was widely known that the Lakers were in staunch opposition to the Kings' possible move, and Jackson had made numerous comments previously criticizing the logic of having a third team in the Los Angeles market.

Not long before it became official that the Kings were staying in Sacramento, Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof revealed the apology to SI.com.

"There were some comments made by Phil Jackson that we did not like," he said in a phone interview. "We felt they were inappropriate. I heard that he sent an apology to us. I haven't seen it, but I believe he sent an apology which, we accept his apology."