Nine years ago KOBE BRYANT, SHAQUILLE O’NEAL and PHIL JACKSON brought Los Angeles its 12th NBA Championship. It was a special moment, as KOBE, with the help of SHAQ, finally began to realize his promise. It took bringing in a special coach, PHIL JACKSON, to assist in the result, indeed, to make it happen, as KOBE and SHAQ were floundering in those early years.
When he was drafted, as a 17-year old high school phenom, it was foretold that KOBE would do great things in the NBA. He would become the next MICHAEL JORDAN, and eclipse the 6 NBA titles that, that phenom brought to the city of Chicago. The fact that JERRY WEST pulled off the coup of coups in luring SHAQUILLE O’NEAL from Orlando to play with him further fueled expectations that the LAKERS would soon be hoisting championship banners.
But after 3 difficult years in which the LAKERS could do no better than 2nd in the Pacific Division, panic was beginning to set in; this, despite a nearly 70% winning percentage under then coach, DEL HARRIS. But after a sweep in the 2nd round of the playoffs at the hands of San Antonio, owner JERRY BUSS knew something had to be done.
In comes JACKSON, and the LAKERS post a 67-15 record, best in the NBA in 1999-2000, and 2nd best all-time in LAKER history. They went on to win their first of 3 consecutive championships with SHAQ, KOBE, and JACKSON behind the wheel, before this racecar went careening off the highway.
SHAQ got lazy; KOBE had some legal trouble; and JACKSON couldn’t keep the team together. Had he been able to get through to either superstar, the LAKERS might be celebrating their 10th consecutive title, instead of their return to greatness.
But all of that was washed away yesterday, as Los Angeles celebrated KOBE, and PHIL, and the franchise’s 15th NBA crown.
To be sure, PAUL GASOL, LAMAR ODOM, TRVOR ARIZA and DEREK FISHER had major hands in bringing the trophy back to STAPLES. ANDREW BYNUM and JORDAN FARMAR may have roles in keeping the trophy here next year.
But for now, let’s celebrate PHIL JACKSON as the best coach in NBA history. Never mind it was his nonchalance that probably lost the series last year to the Boston Celtics, allowing PAUL PIERCE to make his drama play and steal the 2008 trophy from the LAKERS hands. And who cares anymore that JACKSON in his tell-all, or more accurately put, tell-some book, THE LAST SEASON: A TEAM IN SEARCH OF ITS SOUL, placed the lion’s share of the blame on KOBE, just past being a teenager, for the breakup of the SHAQ-KOBE tandem.
Little does it matter now, that it was JACKSON’S disdain of timeouts, or his quirky substitution patterns that put the entire city of Los Angeles on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, as the LAKERS struggled to fulfill the prospects of their superior talent. One can hardly remember, that KOBE was so uninspired by the legendary coaching skills of one PHIL JACKSON that he floated word he wanted to be traded from the LAKERS just as the 2007 season was getting underway.
No, now is not the time for any of that. Congratulations to PHIL JACKSON on his 10th NBA title, making him the most decorated NBA coach ever. His winning percentage in the playoffs, as well as his number of playoff wins are by far better than any of his peers.
And praise KOBE BRANT for his 4th NBA title, this one without SHAQUILLE O’NEAL. He needed him to win the first 3, and SHAQ, if he had realized it, could have needed KOBE to win who knows how many more. But that dynasty has sailed, leaving a new juggernaut in its wake.
KOBE BRYANT may or may not surpass MICHAEL JORDAN’S 6 titles. But he now knows the feeling of being NBA FINALS MVP. He now knows the taste of a championship orchestrated and performed at his direction. The burden not winning without SHAQ is gone, and KOBE now knows what it really means to fly.
This LAKER team, with an unshackled KOBE BRYANT, a toughened PAU GASOL, a maturing ANDREW BYNUM, a blossoming TREVOR ARIZA, a DEREK FISHER-mentored JORDAN FARMAR and SHANNON BROWN, and with any luck, a resigned LAMAR ODOM (I’m assuming the LAKERS will make resigning TREVOR priority #1) may well become the dynasty we thought we had to start this decade.
With all that talent, who knows, maybe JACKSON will want to stick around and pick up his eleventh.
The severely depleted Houston Rockets embarrassed the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday, despite protestations by coach PHIL JACKSON otherwise. “No we’re not embarrassed. Houston played a great game. This kid BROOKS played great tonight. He played terrific off the floor. They played well.”
JACKSON went on to say he was not concerned, and that the Lakers are a team that needs a spark to play well. Apparently he doesn’t possess that ability to spark them.
It was no surprise Houston would come out firing. They had nothing to lose.
There is another reason to call timeouts when things aren’t going so hot, and that is to take some of the steam out of the engine, that was the Houston bullet train in that 1st quarter. Forget bailing out your own deadbeats, who didn’t listen, or care about your pre-game warnings about a lethargic start. How about throwing a spike strip down to slow the runaway car that ran down the Laker starters, coach?
And another thing, 9 minutes into a disastrous1st quarter, why still no substitutions? It was clear after 3 minutes, the starters didn’t have the requisite energy to run with the Rockets, why not bring in some energy guys and give them a shot? The Lakers were down 13 after the first frame, and never recovered the rest of the day.
The lack of bench play, particularly from JORDAN FARMAR, who had an impressive showing starting in the place of suspended DEREK FISHER on Friday night, was a real surprise. JORDAN showed tremendous hustle, had 12 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block and only 1 turnover in game 3, in 32 minutes.
For that he didn’t even get into the game Sunday until garbage time, with 2:32 left in the first. Meanwhile DEREK FISHER was rusty after his 1 game “timeout”, gathering only 2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in 20 minutes, while his man, BROOKS had a career game, 34 points. Granted, not all of that was FISHER’S fault, and in actuality, SHANE BATTIER was the bigger problem, going 5 for 5 on 3-pointers, in getting the Rockets out fast. That was KOBE’S fault.
Tell me why in the world, with YAO MING out of the game, the Lakers felt the need to double-team so much? Who, other than maybe RON ARTEST, who wasn’t much of a factor in this one, with 8 points, needed to be doubled? It was this faulty defensive scheme that left BATTIER, and so many other Rockets, wide open for 2 and 3-point shots. That one falls on JACKSON.
As did the game getting so out of hand, so fast.
“They weren’t ready right off the bat,” JACKSON told the media afterwards. “You say as much as you can as a coach, then the players have to execute and do it on the floor.”
Well, you also can call timeout, and make the right substitutions. You can do that as a coach, too. Especially when your players don’t listen to what “you say”, and aren’t “doing it on the floor”.
I’m just saying…
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