In a recent interview with USA Today Sports, legendary coach Phil Jackson spoke on different topics, ranging from potential future opportunities in the NBA to the state of the Lakers and what they could do moving forward.
Below are the key points regarding Jackson and the Lakers, plus his comments on the direction of the NBA:
On the direction of the Lakers:
“Well really, there’s a limited free agent market this year. Luol Deng, and Pau Gasol is going to be a free agent — they can resign their own guy, which I don’t know if Pau would want to re-sign with them or not. Maybe he feels that’s not the best place, but he likes LA, he likes the fans. Who else is in the free agent market besides Luol that jumps (at you)?”
On potentially having more involvement with the team:
“I don’t think so. I have a good relationship with the vice president in business affairs (Jeanie Buss) — at least it has been pretty good (laughs).”
“Their father’s memorial service is not a year old, but he has been gone for a year now and they’re still just kind of figuring out, ‘How are we going to do this?’ So I think they want to have an opportunity to do it.”
“Some of the major moves, Dr. Buss was still there. But the other stuff Jimmy and Mitch have been working on. They’ve got a relationship, so I don’t see that happening.”
On if that will disappoint Lakers fans:
“I know, I’m trying not to gin up any hope in that direction. I don’t go to games. I keep encouraging them as fans to follow their team, and they’re having a hard time doing that. They’re not used to being in the position they’re in, so it’s tough.”
On if he ever received a clear answer as to who signed off on hiring D’Antoni over him:
“Jimmy was pretty happy about it and Mitch was still saying, “We’re going to keep interviewing people,” and I think the ultimate (decision) kind of rested with Dr. Buss and he made the decision in the hospital the day after. I haven’t chosen to bite on that. I’ve just let that go. I’m real comfortable with it. I don’t have any trouble. I think Jesus could probably coach this team pretty well, but outside of him maybe Mohammed, maybe Gandhi, someone like that.”
On the direction of offensive systems in the NBA:
“Well, the game has moved on to another level. Three-point shooting has become like the (pauses). Really the analytics people have taken it to the point of saying, ‘The worst shot in the game is a 20-foot jumper, a two-point jumper that’s 20 (feet).’ And the best shot might be the corner three. Efficiency, OERs (offensive efficiency ratings), all these efficiency ratings are pointing to how many points per possession you generate from certain types of shots. … But there’s so much more to the game.”
On if he is a fan of analytics in the game:
“I like the analytics. We were always on the forefront of that. I’m not going to go after that. I think that it’s a really important movement. I think a lot of owners have turned the game, the general managers’ jobs, over to people who are more analytic-minded than basketball hierarchy or guys who have been around the league.”
“I do think that it’s still about that being able to look a guy in the eyes and kind of understand that this one is going to go in the fox hole with you and this guy is going to be one of the guys who’s on board with what we’re doing. Yeah, he’s going to be on the line when it comes to that time that’s the challenge. And then the rest of the stuff kind of falls in together.”
Could Jackson return to the bench? No one except he and Jeanie know the answer to that, but I will say that his response about the direction of the league is telling. Could motivation to show the league that old school system basketball wins in the NBA be enough to lure the Zen Master back to the bench?
One thing to remember when reading anything from Jackson is that he is the master of words. Sometimes you need to read between the lines instead of reading directly what he is saying.