Remember in the original Star Wars when General Tarkin tells Princess Leia, “Tell us the location of your rebel base or we’ll blow up your home planet.” Then when she tells him he’s all like, “Haha j/k, we’re blowing your shit up anyway.” This is basically what happened with Phil Jackson and the Lakers over the weekend. Needless to say, the Buss family Thanksgiving (Jackson dates Jeanie Buss, the sister of the Lakers owner, Jim) is going to be extremely awkward this year:
Jim Buss: “Hey Phil, can you pass the cranberry sauce?”
Phil Jackson: “You mean like you passed on another championship?”
Jim Buss: “Eat shit, Phil”
Oh, and those “millions of voices crying out in terror” Obi-Wan heard when Alderaan got nuked? Those would be Lakers fans. Only way more whiny. But despite the potentially bad karma (or payback) that comes from stringing along and misleading one of the brightest, most well-respected basketball minds on the planet, there are reasons to believe the Lakers actually did the right thing here. For instance:
D’Antoni’s offense is better suited to their current roster
Let’s see. You have a group of veterans that includes one of the all-time great pick-and-roll orchestrators, a super athletic center who’s bigger and stronger than everyone else on the floor, and one of the most versatile power forwards in the league when he’s not getting throatchopped by his head coach. I know, let’s install an unfamiliar, ultra-complex offense that has them sitting on the wing with their thumbs up their asses wondering what to do. This is Mike Brown’s Princeton offense in a nutshell. And the Triangle, an offense notoriously difficult to grasp, probably wouldn’t be much better. At least not any time soon. Kobe Bryant is smart and still skilled enough to produce regardless of the system. But D’Antoni’s offense should be not only easier to pick up, but considerably more conducive to the rest of the roster’s strengths.
They’re still courting Dwight Howard
Here’s the absolute worst-case scenario for the Lakers: Phil comes back, the Lakers still play like shit, Nash stays hurt, Kobe gets disinterested and starts chucking up 35 shots a night and at the end of the season, Jackson says, “You know what? I’m too old for this after all. I’m going to Colorado and getting BAKED.” What do think happens with Dwight Howard? Is the allure of being a star in L.A. still enough to persuade him to sign an extension if this season goes to hell? Or does he go to an up-and-coming team like Houston? Or the place he wanted to go to in the first place – Brooklyn? The Lakers know full well that future championships rest firmly on getting Howard to stay in L.A. And in that respect, D’Antoni offers three key advantages over Jackson:
- Stability (signed for a minimum of three years as opposed to Jackson who would only be year-to-year)
- A stat-friendly offense that will inflate Howard’s numbers/ego
- A lax, player’s-coach attitude that will put up with Howard’s 3rd-grade antics (Even if Kobe wants to eat his liver for it)
Basically, the Lakers have been smiling and winking at Howard long enough. Now’s the time to start showing some cleavage.
Phil Jackson has become the Brett Favre of NBA Coaches
Here’s a quote from Phil Jackson that likely came right after he woke up from his afternoon nap:
“I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker Fans who endorsed my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”
So let me get this straight. The main reason Jackson wanted to come back was because of the “We want Phil!” chants? What Phil meant was, he missed the limelight, the adulation, the money, and of course, the chance to once again come riding in as the franchise’s savior. Brett Favre pulled this shit for years in Green Bay before the management finally had enough and told him his services were no longer needed. And like Favre, Jackson isn’t too fucking happy about it, replying to the Buss’ answer that they felt D’Antoni was the better choice for the team with a sarcastic, “I don’t. But that’s OK.” Geezus. Phil, you’re one of the most successful coaches of all-time. Chill out and watch some Any Griffith reruns. But as we saw with Favre, the appeal of saving the day for some, is just too great to resist. Even when it was obvious that Favre’s ridiculous demands (missing training camp, etc.) were wearing thin and his relationship with management growing more contentious, Favre thought he could waltz right back into town and reclaim his old job. Sound familiar? I believe the quote from Jackson was that he believed it was, “His job to turn down.”
Like the Favre saga, this one is sure to take a million different he said, she said twists and turns. And likely, we’ll never know the full extent of how the Lakers ended up with Mike D’Antoni. Maybe it’s as simple as they just wanted someone new. Maybe as Kevin Ding put it, the Lakers “Fell out of love” with Phil Jackson.
Or maybe, the Lakers just wanted someone that actually wanted them back.