Commentary: Jackson Can’t Help These Lakers
This Hollywood sequel won’t work out.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers re-hired Phil Jackson as their head coach. Jackson, who guided the Lakers to three straight NBA titles, was fired last summer after losing a power struggle with Kobe Bryant.
Zen-master Phil should have stayed at his Montana cabin or traveled back to Asia for further enlightenment because these Lakers are a mess.
They’ve got some old issues that will inevitably flare up. Can Bryant forgive Jackson after he published that tell all book in November? Will management support Jackson when he clashes with Bryant? What about Lakers’ VP Jeanie Buss? Her boyfriend is Jackson. But her father owns the team. Who does she side with if there’s another power struggle?
There’s not a lot for Jackson to work with. There’s no Shaq in the middle. Derek Fisher is up the coast in Golden State and Robert Horry has taken his clutch shots over to San Antonio. Lamar Odom and Caron Butler have potential, but they can’t play with Bryant.
The Lakers are capped out and have no money to spend on free agents. In fact, they’ve already committed 65 million dollars to just eleven players for next season. Many of these players are overpaid: Brian Grant earns 14 million dollars, Devean George pulls in 5 million dollars and Chucky Atkins is on the books for 4.5 million dollars. That’s a waste of 23.5 million dollars. Without any new talent, Jackson might need Bryant to score 40 points a game for the team to win.
Jackson had other options. Cleveland wanted an experienced coach to mentor LeBron James. New York and Sacramento were interested in Jackson’s services. Larry Brown won’t return to Detroit.
With better jobs available, why would Jackson return to Los Angeles?
There’s money and love in Los Angeles. The Lakers made Jackson the richest coach in NBA history, signing him to a three-year deal worth thirty million dollars. And he can spend those millions with his girlfriend because they’re together in the same city.
The purple and gold are the NBA’s glamour team. It’s tough to imagine Jackson coaching in some blue-collar city. The spotlight wouldn’t be big enough. After all, he’s as popular as Jack Nicholson, Chris Rock or any other celebrity that sits courtside at Staples Center.
Jackson knows that some people think he’s overrated. They argue that his championship rings came from working with great players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Jackson also knows that he can silence those critics by getting the Lakers back in the playoffs.
Jackson has his reasons for returning to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the Lakers are a bad team. And nobody will care about his reasons when the losing starts.
By Oly Sandor. Oly Sandor is an NBA analyst and a free-lance journalist based out of Vancouver, Canada. His basketball writing has appeared in basketball.com, insidehoops.com, eurobasket.com, hoopsvibe.com and Basketball Ballerz Magazine. Send him an email at [email protected]