Phil Jackson Speaks

Kurt —  September 27, 2008

Phil Jackson met with the media on Friday in advance of Lakers camp opening next Tuesday, and as you expect from Phil he said a few interesting things. If you want to watch the entire press conference, the always on it guys at have the video up.

What follows are some highlights, followed by a few comments.

Question: “Have seen enough of Trevor to envision a role for him?”
Jackson: “I don’t hesitate to say that if this team doesn’t work out the way I want it to, Trevor may be a starting player. I may just insert him and convince Lamar to come off the bench if I feel it’s better for the team and we don’t feel as comfortable on the floor as I’d like us to feel. That’s a role I see Trevor playing for us. I think he’s going to be a person who does things defensively and offensively for us that are going to be big pluses for us.”

Question: “Would that be Plan B?”
Jackson: “I have to give that an opportunity. They deserve an opportunity.”

….Lamar is going to have to make an adjustment. He’s had an advantage at power forward the last couple of season, especially playing power forward in a guard slot offensively. So he’s going to have to make some adjustments and we’re going to have to see how he does with that.

That answers that question — Lamar Odom is going to get the chance to start at the three. If it doesn’t work, Ariza could step into that role. But Phil is going to give the “start the best five” system a chance, and as an advocate of that I couldn’t be happier. Offensively that five (Fish, Kobe, Odom, Gasol, Bynum) are going to score a lot of points. The question about that group is really tied to my mantra for the season — the Lakers will go as far as their defense takes them. How that group defends will be the key. The best part is, if it doesn’t work out the fallback plan of starting Ariza with Odom off the bench should also be very good.

And, as has been suggested here, it looks like Odom will do plenty of ball handling and playing some point/forward. Again, I’m excited, I would love to see Odom and Pau work the two-man game on the triangle’s weak side, with Pau getting the ball in the high post and Odom cutting past him to the basket. That is going to be very hard to defend.

Question: “Any more specifics?”
Jackson: “I’d like to have Lamar in a role that’s kind of still on the ball. I want him to do some thing in organizing the offense. He’s also going to be played by small forwards instead of power forwards, which takes a little bit of an advantage away from him at some spots. Obviously, a big question is Andrew’s ability to get up and down the floor and have the stamina he needs to have in order to compete. The adjustment of Pau to play defensively away from the basket, which is a role he’s not used to playing. So those are three questions that could be answered, and that’s not even talking about our bench and how the bench is coming along and how they fit.

Phil took a couple of digs at Andrew. Sometimes this stuff gets taken by fans as “Phil is down on Bynum” but really, this is how Phil has motivated players as long as he has coached, with subtle jabs through the media. And it works. By the way, the one dig I found most interesting was when Phil was asked about Bynum keeping a level head while the contract talks are going on — Phil said he’s not worried about Drew but does have concerns about “some of the people around him.” Interesting. Phil doesn’t say things like that on accident.

Question: “How will you fit Gasol and Bynum together?”
Jackson: “I think there’s going to have to be an understanding on this team that there’s going to be personnel that are going to be better off against some opponents and some styles of play. Whether we have a small team like Golden State with a center and four small forwards out there playing, guys are going to have to adjust and sacrifice to meet the demands of it game by game. But we’re going to have the potential for a very tall, lanky, strong front line and if they can learn to play defense together they’re going to be a very formidable opponent to score against. Offensively, how we get those guys together with the size they have and the abilities they have as starters, that’s going to be interesting to see.

What I’m going to ask Andrew to do in this offense is to rebound offensively and to set picks and to be a pivotal point in our offense. I’m not asking him to be a one-on-one scoring. He’s going to be a guy who’s going to shore up the defense, which I think is a pivotal aspect. Rebound, which I think is the second-most important thing in our offense. … Now we know Pau is a different animal on the post. He’s more of a polished scorer down there. To adjust the two of them on the floor at the same time and Lamar (Odom) at a wing spot is going to be our goal this year at training camp, to figure out to do that.”

I don’t think there are any surprises there, Phil at points talked about Pau needing his face-up and 15-foot jumper this season, again things that have been talked about here. I like that Phil is tightly defining Bynum’s role — defend and rebound, then the points will come. That is exactly what the Lakers were missing and need.

Question: “Will you have to monitor Kobe’s minutes more this season?”
Jackson: “Without a doubt. Pivotal players, I think anything under 35 minutes makes it tough for them to stay involved in the game, to play with the kind of energy to carry it back on the floor. So you can’t let a player sit too long. I think 38 to 40 is too much at this time.”

I’m less worried about the ultra-conditioned Kobe than I am Pau, who also played a lot of hoops this summer. The more they can keep the minutes down for both, the better.