By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson has urged his players not to be emotionally distracted when they launch their NBA title defense Tuesday moments after receiving their championship rings.
The Lakers, who clinched their 15th championship and first since 2002 with a 4-1 series victory over the Orlando Magic in June, will start the 2009-10 season against city rivals the Clippers in front of a passionate crowd.
"It's very difficult to play on ring night," Jackson told reporters at the team's El Segundo training facility Monday. "The distractions are great and people are living in the past and on the laurels of the past.
"You're only a success in the moment when you complete a successful act -- that's one of the things that we keep telling these players. Last year's success, that was over in June."
Overall, though, Jackson felt the knowledge of past success was a key component in building future glory.
"The idea that you have to protect something or defend something as the defending champion is always a good deal for a team," the 64-year-old said.
"The knowledge they are going to have go out and play well, the crowds are going to be there, you are going to be facing challenges on the road, your home fans are going to be expecting you to win and you have to bring that energy to excite people, yourself and the team.
"Those are things that these guys are aware of," added Jackson, who has guided teams to a record 10 NBA championships.
"Some of them haven't been on championship teams but (Derek) Fisher and Kobe (Bryant) obviously have. They know the perils of going into a ring night, for example, and starting out as defending champion."
The Lakers could be without forward Pau Gasol Tuesday, the Spaniard having missed the team's last six exhibition games while recovering from a strained right hamstring.
Although Gasol was placed on the active roster for the season opener at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, he could be moved to the inactive list before Tuesday's tip-off.
"That's a game decision," Jackson said. "He's much more optimistic than he has been but we are not concerned."
Over the weekend, Gasol said it did not make "a whole lot of sense" for him to play Tuesday.
"It's most important that I get myself healthy at this point in the year so I can go through the whole year," he added.
"If I put myself in a risky situation then I won't be helping my team in the long run."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)