Not A Savior, But A Start

Kurt —  June 14, 2005

Apparently, Phil Jackson is not a Thomas Wolfe fan.

That’s okay, he can come home and myself and most Laker fans will welcome him (I’m celebrating this with a Duff beer tonight, maybe two). This is a great first step.

In the disastrous aftermath of this rudderless past season I felt (and wrote) that charting an organizational direction had to be THE top priority — and Phil Jackson will provide that. He is someone who knows what he wants and will point the Lakers that way, and while there can be questions about the direction at least this organization has one again.

However, unless he has learned to walk on water — or turn Chucky Atkins into a defender — he will need some time and help.

Let’s start with the positives. I wrote about this before, Phil will bring defensive discipline to a team that desperately needed it last year. To briefly recap, the last time Phil came to Los Angeles he took at team that the year before was 24th in the league in defensive efficiency and made it the best in the league. He also made a major turnaround in Chicago when he took over there.

If the Lakers had just an average defense last year they would have made the playoffs (then likely lost in the first round, but made the playoffs). Jackson will make the defense respectable.

The other thing is the triangle offense — remember Tex Winter going on the radio at the start of last season saying this Laker squad was in many ways better suited to run the triangle than the championship teams? This is not a more talented team, but the triangle may spread the ball around better and leave Kobe shooting less than 17% of his shots with less than 3 seconds on the shot clock, like he did last year. Remember, the triangle is a spread the floor, take what the defense gives you type of offense, if run correctly the Lakers will do well in it.

Despite all that, what Phil cannot do is make this team an instant contender.

This team’s weaknesses do not go away with a new coach. We still cannot defend the point and we still don’t have a consistent shot blocking presence inside to punish the guards who do penetrate. We still need somebody who can clean the glass and defend the four. The draft alone will not solve these problems.

Now, though, the real work to fill those holes can begin. We have a direction. And that is something worth celebrating.

Kurt

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