2005-04-27

Lakers Need to re-Fall in Love with Jackson


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I'm traveling in Wetern Kentucky again and thus getting my fill of ESPN Radio. This afternoon's big story - the potential return of Phil Jackson to the LA Lakers. The interesting question regarding this story was, "Who needs to do the reaching out?"

When forced to choose, Jerry Buss went with Kobe and sent Shaq and Jackson packing. There is talk that Jackson was asking too much, and that may be so. But it was clear Kobe wasn't going to be coached by the nine-time champion, and Kobe was the driver on this one.

Phil Jackson didn't help anything with his book which left no part of the Laker organization un-charred. Given that the past season saw the Lakers go through two coaches and wind up a lottery team, one could argue that Jackson was right.

The thing is, LA needs Jackson, or one of the other very few coaches / babysitters of his caliber. He doesn't necessarily need them.

LA has Kobe and a handful of other guys who are there because you need to have five players on the court at any given time. If the organization isn't careful at this juncture, they run the risk of becoming one of those teams like the 76ers or the TMac Magic, that seem to exist only to pad their star's stats and have no real chance of any serious success.

Phil Jackson is one of the few coaches who won't kiss Kobe's butt. Larry Brown has also been mentioned and would also be a good pick. Brown certainly has experience with this scenario, having dealt with Alan Iverson in Philadelphia. Of course, things are going pretty well for Brown in Detroit right now. And after the headaches he experienced with Iverson, why would he want to buy into the same scenario again?

So, how much does Jackson need the Lakers? If he's flirting with getting into coaching again, he must want something. A tenth ring? Vindication? The thought among the wise was that Jackson could jump right in and get the Lakers clicking again. I don't see it. LA doesn't have the pieces for success right now. Jackson could improve things, but only so much.

I'm not sure if there was ever a time when, in the NBA, one player could single-handedly lead a team to a Championship. That certainly isn't the case now. It takes at least two mainstays; a Jordan and Pippen, Magic and Kareem, Magic and Worthy, Duncan and Robinson, Shaq and Kobe, and now Shaq and Wade?; along with strong supporting elements to win a ring. Iverson has resisted efforts to bring a second weapon to Philadelphia.

Kobe clearly couldn't co-exist with Shaq, and so far shows every sign that he can't succeed without him. If the Lakers are seriously trying to build another champion, they will soon find out if the Staples Center is big enough for two stars. If not, they'll have to decide what to do about Kobe. Meanwhile, time will tell how many coaches get caught in the cross-fire.

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