After a number of theories had been put forward by the media and fans alike, Phil Jackson today decided to speak out against those who saw Kobe’s passivity in the second half of the Lakers’ game seven against the Suns as being the reason their season ended. On the face of it, it’s difficult to argue against them, with the game tape clearly showing Kobe waving off a number of scoring opportunities, at times moving the ball without so much as looking towards the hoop. However, Jax puts the all-important “game plan” at the centre of the fiasco, playing the angle that Kobe was merely following instructions.
“Kobe went out with the game plan in mind,” Jackson wrote in an e-mail. “Get the ball inside! Kwame [Brown] couldn’t get anything to fall for him…. L.O. [Lamar Odom] the same. [Steve] Nash had banged his knee the first half and we went at him but Smush [Parker] couldn’t score.
“Now we’re 20 down and I put in [Brian]Cook to get the screen-roll game going and they doubled Kobe and left Cook open …
“He [Bryant] finally tried to bust through the defense and got called for a charge and committed a turnover. So there you go. We’re down by 25 points and things have slipped away.”
While Phil Jackson was as politically correct as possible in his analysis, Tex Winter pulled no punches when giving his own version of events. As the man responsible for the notorious triangle offence, he has as much insight into the Lakers’ loss as anyone, and his diagnosis seems to be one of general crappiness from all of the team’s core players.
“Kwame missed four or five easy shots early in Game 7,” Winter said. “He didn’t even try sometimes to go after key rebounds that we needed.”
“Brown, he’s not a competitor,” Winter said, pointing out that Brown played with bursts of energy mixed with strange bouts of apathy. “He just doesn’t know how to compete.”
Asked if he thought Brown could improve in the intangibles, Winter said, “I don’t know. You can’t change spots on a leopard. I don’t know how interested he is in playing.”
Even for a guy named “Winter”, that’s cold. Still, young Kwame wasn’t the only player targeted by the eighty-four-year-old’s manifold criticisms.
“Odom, he wasn’t a whole lot better,” Winter said. “He’s a great talent, but I’m not sure how comfortable he is in a system. He’s more of an instinctive player.”
“When Odom makes a basket cut, he makes it the same way every time, which makes it easy for the defender,” Winter said. “I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t get him to change directions, or to change the pace, with his cuts. I tried to get him to set his man up, so that he could get deeper into the post to set up. But he used the same cut all the time, which meant that he would end up setting up in a mid-post. That made it easier to defend him. I never could get him to change it.”
Even Kobe wasn’t exempt from the wrath of Old Man Winter.
“I don’t know what happened to Kobe, taking just three shots in that situation,” Winter said in a phone interview from his Oregon home. “There were times when he had the ball, he didn’t look to do anything, didn’t look to assert himself. He didn’t look to create anything for himself.”
Was Tex prepared to shoulder any of the blame himself, though?
“Strangely enough,” Winter said, “our offense functioned pretty well in the second half. That wasn’t the problem.”