OAKLAND -- Mark Jackson is ready for the question, which is the best and only way to show that he's ready and edgy for the playoffs, too.

Mark, can you handle going toe-to-toe strategically with San Antonio's Gregg Popovich or Denver's George Karl in the playoffs?

"If I was calling the game (on TV) and it's the Warriors and the Spurs, I'm giving the edge to Popovich as a coach," Jackson, the Warriors' second-year coach, said earlier this week.

"That's all right. That doesn't mean he don't go down.

"And the same thing goes with the guys in the uniforms. I don't care who's over there."

Wait, are you saying you're not as good or are you just setting yourself up to be an under-estimated underdog in a first-round series starting this weekend, probably against Denver or San Antonio?

Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) listens to head coach Mark Jackson at the end of the first quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at
Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson (11) listens to head coach Mark Jackson at the end of the first quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at Oakland's Oracle Arena on April 26, 2012. (Ray Chavez/Staff file)

"George Karl . . . he'll be a Hall of Fame coach one day," Jackson said. "He's won in different spots. He's put together an impressive team this year.

"I don't care who you put in there -- you put Vinny Del Negro (of the Clippers) in there, you put anyone, they've had success . . .

"I'm not foolish enough with 66 (last season) plus 80 games under my belt to say, 'Give me the check mark over Popovich or anybody else.' No, that's OK. But we throw it out.

"And the check mark my entire career has gone the other way. And somehow, it's worked out."

Does this sound like a pre-playoff motivational speech to himself? Yes, and that's how Jackson runs his life, his team and now runs into the playoffs.

He's a button-pusher and has been his whole career -- from stoking Reggie Miller into frothing anti-Knicks mania when they were Indiana teammates to prodding and encouraging Stephen Curry and David Lee and the rest of the Warriors into the playoffs.

It doesn't take a psychology degree to know that Jackson is pushing his own buttons, too, with a nation of playoff second-guessers watching.

"I think he'll match up just fine," veteran guard Jarrett Jack said of his coach. "The playoffs are about adjustments and so is the regular season, and he's been doing a great job.

"This ain't his first go-'round in the playoffs. It's his first time coaching in them (but) he's played in the finals. With him being a point guard playing under Larry Brown, you don't think he has a bit of an experience he brings himself?"

Jackson also has proven he can lead a downtrodden team back into the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and for that he will get some deserved NBA coach of the year support behind Karl, Miami's Erik Spoelstra and probably a few others.

Jackson is not an overt X-and-O guy and never will be, so he may never be put alongside Brown, Don Nelson, Popovich, Doc Rivers and all the other respected strategic coaches.

But Jackson has nudged and unified the Warriors well above .500 after losing Brandon Rush in the second game of the season and while dealing with Andrew Bogut dropping in and out of the lineup.

The next step: Adapt their finesse style to normal rugged playoff basketball and make some noise in the playoffs; of course, a lot of that will depend on Jackson's coaching agility.

Jackson says every decent coach knows what the other team wants to do and every decent coach can make counter-moves and counter-counter-moves. The difference is getting the most out of your players at the optimal moments.

How do you do that? By pushing buttons.

"It's who I am," Jackson said. "And I believe ultimately that's what coaching is about."

So, what's Curry's button?

"Steph's button is trusting him," Jackson said. "I watched games, I called games that Steph would be playing and not finish. I've watched people question him . . .

"Like a lot of people, it's just believing in him; saying, 'Here's the basketball, I'm not going to go crazy if you throw a left-hand pass in the stands. I'm not going to take you out. I'm going to hold you accountable . . . But we're closing ballgames with you. You are the best player on the floor.' "

What's your button for David Lee?

"Letting him know, like from Day 1 when I sat him down, that people talked about him being a numbers guy," Jackson said. "And they could've been right. There's nothing wrong with being a numbers guy.

"You'd better believe Carmelo Anthony is a numbers guy. Kevin Durant's a numbers guy. LeBron James is a numbers guy. What numbers matter to put us in position to win?

"If you want to chase down 15 rebounds, there's nothing negative about that. To me, it was, 'OK, put us in position to win.' "

Which brings it full circle to the here and now. The Warriors have made the playoffs, they will be big underdogs no matter what, they will use that as motivation, they will rally around their coach, and then . . .

Nobody knows yet. That's the fun part for Mark Jackson, and he'll keep pushing buttons until he gets the result he wants.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.