I’m excited. You’re excited. America is excited. David Stern is excited. What are we all excited about? That’s right, we’re all excited about Lakers basketball. After suffering through three agonizing years of not making it past the first round of the playoffs we are finally back in championship contention.

I think the most amazing attribute Lakers fans and the Lakers organization have is our absolute disgust with being a loser. This is probably why we are the most hated fan base of the NBA. We whine and moan and demand our General Manager’s head on a pike just because we had three years of rebuilding while teams like the Rockets and Bulls have been spending the better part of a decade trying to return to form.

While that may sound like negative criticism, it is absolutely not. It’s the attitude of a winner and It’s also probably why we have 14 rings and 28 finals appearances.

So much credit has been passed around for this incredible turn around (most notably to Kobe and Pau, and to a lesser extent Derek Fisher) very few pundits offer much talk about Phil Jackson’s role in all this. I felt that snub was fairly undeserved and after finally reading The Last Season, I feel it much stronger now.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, watching the Smush/Kwame experience coming off of our period of utter dominance was a painful thing. It was so painful that I couldn’t bring myself to read Phil’s book even though it has always intrigued me because the last thing I wanted to deal with at that time was the chronicle of our team’s demise. I mean, who wants to go through the 03-04 season again? Well about a week ago, I finally felt emotionally ready to crack it open and to my surprise I found it to be (beyond being a very good read) far different than what I expected and surprisingly insightful to this new Lakers team.

First off, this book doesn’t really dwell on the Kobe and Shaq feud nearly as much as I presumed. Judging by the reputation this book has received (and the fairly erroneous synopsis on the back cover), I was expecting something that would read like a Lakers edition of the National Enquirer. That is very much not the case. That’s not to say it doesn’t contain it’s moments of Kobe and Shaq craziness (there’s a particularly hilarious story about how Kobe threatens the team by saying he’s going to leave and take Slava Medvedenko with him, to which Phil Jackson muses, “Of all the people on the team, why would he threaten to leave the team with Slava Medvedenko?”).

The vast majority of the book consists of post-game and pre-game analyses. If there is a true villain to this story it’s certainly not Kobe. It’s the screen roll. Divided into a series of diary entries (most of which are written post-game), he mentions the team’s poor defense on the screen roll on seemingly every entry. It gets pretty funny after a while.

With that in mind it’s amazing that this book became a New York Times bestseller. While I found it to be terribly fascinating, it is in essence a bunch of game notes. I really can’t imagine a non-basketball fan or a casual fan being too interested. For every dramatic episode there are probably three or four fairly technical sections about how he plans to break down the offenses and defenses of a particular team.

It’s definitely well written and very readable, but at the end of the day it still amounts to very readable pre-game and post-game notes (then again, Pamela Anderson’s novel became a bestseller so maybe the bestseller thing isn’t that amazing).

It’s a real shame that after the book’s release the only thing that anybody paid attention to was the bits of drama it had to offer. Even the subtitle of “A Team in Search of it’s Soul” seems overly sensational what it is.

For all the craziness that surrounded him, he always approached his players with a great degree of empathy which is by far the most poignant and insightful aspects of this story. Even when dealing with Kobe, who was pretty unbearable at the time, he always did his best to take into account the immense physical and mental strain he was under and his own culpability in their deteriorating relationship.

With his reputation for playing “mind games” and being Mr. Triangle offense, after reading this book, I feel it’s his humanity more than anything else that makes him the Hall of Fame coach he is today.

There’s a passage in the book where he contrasts the selfishness and bickering of his superstars with the hard work and modesty of Jannero Pargo that was particularly telling. He finds the bitter irony about him getting cut from the team and is genuinely sad about how players like Jannero slip through the cracks due to the business of basketball.

While I’m sure it’s hard for all coaches to see players leave the team, I think with Phil it might run a little deeper. Being very old school and team orientated probably from being a role player on the 70’s Knicks, perhaps the ultimate role player team, he seems to get really attached to the little guys. This goes a long way in explaining Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. Think about it, Kwame and Smush can’t get minutes on the Grizzlies and the Heat, yet Phil decided to start them. He even got decent performances out of them. Ironic that he has made his ability to deal with superstar egos his calling (or not. Who better to deal with superstars than a role player?).

In the end it’s this attachment to his players that makes the ending of the book so ironic. For a coach that loves team unity and old school work ethic above anything else, the fact that his team imploded due to very new school ego battles and selfishness is downright poetic. After his passages about the end of season, the book epilogues with him planning his life after basketball. Like an old western, it leaves the lingering image of an old broken down gunslinger fading off into the sunset. It was poignant then but in hindsight, it presents a very Jay-Z moment now.

I really hope he’s been keeping a diary this season; it would make a great sequel.

Terry Kim is a TLN Staff contributor, you can contact him at TerryKim@Vertigo-Go.com.

  • kobeplease

    the lakers season so far has been a cinderella story. I still think we need some more tough guys if we really want to make a deep run. And we have that tough guy in Bynum. If bynum is 80% of what he was before, I know we can win it. if hes not, then well probably have to wait till next season.

  • 187 ON BOSTON

    [Comment ID #28953 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I AGREE WE DO NEED SOME MORE TUFF GUYS. IN ORDER TO GET THEM WE NEED TO DUMP OFF OUR WORST 2 PLAYERS FLUKE WALTON & CHRIS MIHM.

  • http://mysapce lakernation

    I AGREE LUKE WALTON N MIHM JUST SUKZZZZZZ PERIOD…
    I SHOULD BE IN THE NBA CAZ I B BALLING MORE THAN LUKE HE CANT MAKE HIS OWN MOVIES AND JUST LOOK FOR OTHER…DAMM MAN STEP IT UP UR IN PROFESSIONAL

  • xtro

    i’m afraid, the lake show may night win the WCF unless Bynum, Ariza and Mihm return to action. The team needs tough defense.

  • DCLAKER

    We needed ARIZA on the defensive end.

  • http://getgarnett.com jonasjulienjoseph

    SORRY LUKE DOSNT SUCK OR NEITHER DOES CHRIS SUCKS, THEY HAVE BEEN AGGED BY INJURYS WE SEEN THERE STATS WHEN HEALTHY LIKE LUKE: 11.4, 5REB, 5AST, ALOT OF PLAYERS CANT PUT THEASE NUMBERS UP, AND CHRIS IS REALLY ABLE TO AVARAGE A DOUBLE AND IS THE ONLY RELIBLE CENTER BESIDES BYNUM WE HAVE (AND RONNY IS NOT A CENTER, HE CAN PLAY CENTER BUT IS A POWER FORWARD).

  • kushking

    [Comment ID #28975 Will Be Quoted Here]
    do you have some kind of white b-baller fetish. i am white and these dudes are giving white folks a bad name. and when the fuk are either of these lames healthy? yeah i dont remember either. luke was ok a few yrs back. and piss mihm has been garbage from the get go. so get off their diks and go find another white fool to suck on.

  • xtro

    In the tough western conference, we need all of the injured players back in action.

  • kPoAbUe

    fluke and mihm suck. period! Lakers just need Ariza and Bynum and they win it all.

  • DCLAKER

    Luke is hurt,I at least have to give some benefit of the doubt but then again SO IS LO(Who’s having the season we hoped he have)so I guess we’re back to kicking LW IN HIS A!@
    for getting ALL that money,enjoying it rather than getting the treatment he needed to heal up that ankle that’s been bothering him the 2nd season in a row. I think Luke,menatlly,is not tough enough,plus gets lazy at the wrong time.He’s a helluva facilitater but he needs to score more,DAMN,even Farmar has KB and DF’s trust.So saying all that I’ll end by saying,GERALD GREEN ANYBODY!

  • JB714

    I BEEN SCARED TO READ THIS ESPECIALLY CUZ I KNOW IT TALKLS BOUT THE 03-04 FINALS…AND EVERYBODY KNOWS WAT HAPPENED…BUT I AGREE PHIL DEFINETLEY NEEDS TO WRITE A SEQUEL AND INCLUDE THIS SEASON AND THE ONES THERE IS TO COME…ILL READ THAT CUZ WE GONNA B CHAMPS BABY!!!!!!!!

  • MILO

    I agree that we need to pick up Ron Artest and get rid of Fluke and Mihm to open up some spots on the roster.The NBA is racist against Artest just because he’s not a little
    b!tch and speeks his mind.If you would ask me! that is the kind of toughnes the Lakers are lacking.I WOULD NOT MIND HAVING A GUY WHO IS WILLING TO FU-CK SOMEONE UP IF THEY TRY TO GET CRAZY LIKE ALL THE FOOLS PUNKING SASHA…

  • lalball81

    Milo,

    Lamar tackled Ray Allen out of bounds.

    This Lakers team is plenty tough. Come the playoffs, they’ll be able to dish it out against any of the more physical teams. Pau isn’t soft either, and we have Kobe, Sasha, Farmar, Turiaf, Lamar.

    This team doesn’t seem like a team you can push around to me, especially by the time the playoffs start.

  • LEADERFISH

    [Comment ID #28977 Will Be Quoted Here]

    what does being white have to do with it?

  • Devean George

    Luke and Mihm have potential but we may not see it due to injuries….

    just like me, I really believe that I am a Lebron mixed with Kobe type player but i’ve been injured too!

    just wait 7 years when i get my surgery done that replaces my complete mind and body and i’ll be back to my jordan game….

  • 187 ON BOSTON

    [Comment ID #29024 Will Be Quoted Here]

    hahahahahahaha

  • MILO

    [Comment ID #29018 Will Be Quoted Here]

    you totaly missed the point of me wanting to get rid of our deadbeats as is Mihm and sometimes Luke, his injury has plagued him since last season and it doesn’t seem to give way.Both these players have injuries that just wont let them play at a consistent basis…

  • DCLAKER