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 Lakers.com 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.

Kurt

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27 responses to Phil Jackson Speaks

  1. RIP Paul Newman.

    I met him at a couple Long Beach Grand Prix races, and he was nice and generous those times. I’m going to have to pull out my copy of “Sapshot” “Slapshot” and watch that tonight.

  2. “slapshot”

    At times last season it seemed like Pau was a little hesitant to take his outside shot. That will need to change with this roster.

    Bynum should be able to get 12-15 ppg without having any plays run for him, just off of put-backs and passes from one of the others when Bynum’s man leaves him to help out. Good coaching that they will let him grow into a more sophisticated offensive game without putting much pressure on him.

  3. Indeed RIP to Paul Newman. Besides all the great movies, I love all the food products that he put out, especially the lemonade.

    As for our team and Bynum, I see it going well…

    Bynum can get double digits on offense just from running P&R with Kobe. He can get 6-8 off those lob plays, and he can get another 4-6 on the play that we used to carve up the Celtics with: High P&R (Bynum/Kobe), ball handler (Kobe) gets trapped, weakside forward (Pau) flashes and receives a pass, he passes to the cutting big man who set the original screen (Bynum). So. just on that one play (P&R), he’ll get his buckets. You add to that his ability to rebound on the offensive glass (especially considering the fact that Pau will be a player that is playing a lot in the mid-post on isolations), and he’ll get another handful of points just off putbacks and assists from Pau or on penetration from other players. I could easily see Bynum getting 15-17 points this season just because he’s got even more offensive talent around him (than last season) that deserves attention from opposing defenses. And with Phil emphasizing defense and rebounding for our young Big, I could also easily see double digit rebounds and 2 blocks a game. Basically, if healthy, I think he’ll back to pre-injury form and earn a birth in the all-star game.

  4. Phil’s comments are interesting. His challenge this year will be in handling a deep and talented roster so that everyone feels that their contributions are valued even if their minutes are limited. I must give credit to Mitch and Co. for what is probably the most remarkable turnaround in depth and talent on a roster in a short period of time I can remember.
    Starters 05/06 08/09
    Kobe Kobe
    Smush Fish
    Kwame Bynum
    Lamar Pau
    Luke Lamar

    Bench
    Brian Cook Ariza
    Chris Mihm Farmar
    Slava Vuacic
    Devin Green Radmanovich
    Laron Profit Walton
    Devean George Powell
    Sasha Mihm
    Von Wafer Sun Yue
    Aaron McKie Coby Karl
    Andrew Bynum Mbenga

    It would be easy to argue, based on minutes, stats and contibution that Luke Walton was the second best player on the teamin the 05/06 season. Fast forward to the 2008 roster, even if Luke was completely healthy it would be difficult to argue that he is above numer eight or nine on the depth chart. What a remarkable transformation of a team from top to bottom. The Lakers are a remarkable franchise. I can’t wait for the season to start.

  5. Maybe I’m reading too much into Phil’s comments. But it seems as if he has some doubts about starting Lamar at small forward. His stating that he “has to give” Fisher, Bryant, Lamar, Pau, and Andrew “an opportunity” to start with one another before inserting Ariza into the starting lineup is telling to me.

    Maybe I’m making something out of nothing.

    I get the motivation behind wanting to play the five best players at once. And Lamar is a better player than Ariza. I suppose having to choose between Ariza and Lamar in the starting lineup is a good thing.

    I can’t wait for the season to start…

  6. Brandon,
    I think we all have doubts about Lamar adjusting and playing SF (even me, one of Odom’s biggest supporters). So, Phil’s no different than anyone else.

    However, I also think that he’s doing the right thing by starting Odom. Odom is one our 5 best players and his versatility has the potential to be a real difference maker to our group of other players who are difference makers (if that makes sense). I also think it’s smart that Phil is setting expectations for what he wants from that lineup and being honest about it’s potential limitations. Phil’s not beyond manipulation, but he’s still honest with his proclamations and I like that he’s being upfront about what he’ll want to see from individual players as well as the group when they’re on the court together.

    So, I don’t think you’re reading too much into his comments.

  7. Brandon, I totaly get the feeling that Phil wants to start Trevor. Ariza is the second best one on one defender they have. I suspect he wants to mold in like Scottie andhave him guard the ball handler (and I hear Arzia has been workibng hard on his catch and shoot for this year). If Ariza does start LO can fill in any role they need. But Phil wants to be fair and see if somehow LO is just too valuable to sit (remember LO is our second best rebounder and rebounding is the most underrated aspect of basketball).

  8. Is this the first time ever that the triangle offense will operate with twin towers? anyone care to analyze what benefits that will bring?

  9. I’m not sure I think of it as a true twin towers in the sense that Pau can play in the high post, he does not need to be down on the block to be successful. Maye that’s a matter of perception.

  10. what exactly is “twin tower” then? 2 people on the low post?

  11. 10. Well, nobody really says Dallas has twin towers even though they start Dampier and Dirk. The reason is Dirk’s game is not based in the post. I see the Lakers more that way, this is a team that moves and cuts as opposed to what Houston used to do. Different than what San Antonio used to do. But like I said, that may be a perception thing on my part.

    But there will be plenty of talk about how the offense works with the two bigs on this site as we move ahead.

  12. I think Phil just recognizes that he has a lot of experimenting ahead of him and that his lineups could end up going in several different directions.

    It’s good to know he values Ariza highly because Ariza does add a lot to the side.

  13. yeah, i get the feeling that he likes Odom off the bench for multiple reasons.

    1. they need to shore up defense, and what better way to send a signal to the team than to start somebody who makes up lack in talent (compared to Odom) with defense?

    2. Kobe’s minutes. You want Kobe on the floor 35+. You don’t want him to be both the focal point on offense and defense. He’s no MJ in that regard, and we’ve seen his defense falter and fail even when he’s not focusing on offense (which, by the way, is impossible for him; look at the Olympics, he still attempted as many shots as anyone else on the team).

    3. Odom’s contract year. Even a player like Odom must feel the pressure to fill up the box score in a contract year. Much more easily accommodated without Kobe at the same time. It is even a chance to showcase is ‘versatility’ that I personally haven’t had the chance to see the past few seasons.

    4. Incentive to work hard. Not that Farmar and Sasha look like types that need motivation, but it could give them more motivation to know that they can start over marquee names if they meet the team’s needs. Sure Sasha starting over Kobe is a LONG shot, but both can try to start over Fisher.

  14. anyone else think that the Laker’s bench can possibly outplay some starting lineups out there in the NBA?

    PG – Farmar
    SG – Vujacic
    SF – Walton
    PF – Odom
    C – Mbenga/Mihm

    seriously, with some coaching, this is a playoff team in the east

  15. I feel that Phil said all the things that were either expected and/or he had to say. It is true that we can read between the lines and notice that he wants Ariza out there and he wants to go defensive. That can only make me happy.

    As a loyal fan of Odom, and I really like that dude in terms of all tangibles and intangibles, I think it is a better idea to bring him off the bench. Kobe is our best player, but even at most times he is not bigger than the system under which we play.

    The triangle is certainly flexible and adjustable around the talents of specific players, but it requires a lot of movement, running and outside shooting. Therefore having 3 really big dudes out there (Drew, Pau and LO) will most certainly effect the efficiency of the system by perhaps changing the speed and/or 3-point threat considerations. For that reason, I think it is safer to trust the system and play within the limits of its opportunities.

    That is one reason why LO should come off the bench. Second reason is of course what Phil was talking about between the lines. Lakers had a pretty porous defense last year and would have definitely won much more games if it were not defensive errors, mental lapses and temporary lacks of concentration from time to time. You will recall that they came back many times from being down to win a game, but also they gave up huge leads themselves. Such roller coaster things do not happen to truly great times, and if they do than it is rare.

    With Ariza at the 3, and we can debate all we want how over/under rated he is as a defender, we have several good things going for us defensively. While LO is a pretty good (I would even say very good) rebounder, Ariza can board as well, and I do not think rebounds should be a problem that much with Drew becoming a beast on the glass ( I trully believe that). Same goes with shot-blocking. I think rebounding and shot-blocking are the only concepts that anyone could argue LO is better than Ariza defensively. Trevor is fast, athletic and defense-oriented. He can guard 1s, 2s and 3s. With him on the floor, Kobe get easier assignment and lakers have probably one of the best perimeter defenses to go with formidable inside bigs. If they can only add all these things up and play good collective team defense, no fantasy team out there can stop the Lake-show. And I think it is time we start trully believing in our amazingly incredible offensive arsenal and our superiority in that compartment against any team in the league. If we manage to have a B+ team defense, Lakers will be really really scary.

    Third reason why I think LO should come of the bench is LO himself. This guy is a prodigy. A rare talent with his legitimate concerns and short-comings. He is certainly not a player that can be standardized to any slot on the NBA typology of players. He is not a PG even though he dribbles and pases splendidly, he is not a SG even though he runs the floor and finishes fast break as good as anyone, he is not a SF, because he prefers inside game, and he is not a PF because he is very quick and perimeter skilled.

    I guess we could say that Lamar’s main challenges in this league have been his very own talents and skills, and their inhumane redundancy and diversity. By coming off the bench for the Lakers, both the team and the player maximize LOs efficiency, skills, team production and opposition headache. Lamar will certainly get his 35+ minutes per night, he is simply that good, and he would have most probably started on any team in the NBA.

    Furthermore, being able to come off the bench, play with second unit and better showcase his overall skills, will help Lamar prove his true value as a player in this league and go for a favorable contract extension with LA (fingers crossed) or sign elsewhere :(. Very important point to mention here is that Lamar will be in the game during criitcal periods, and I am sure of that. I think at least for the first dozen games or so, depending on game situations, a line-up of Fish, Kobe, Ariza, LO and Pau will be closers. Just that combination, not to mention the other up and coming dudes, should tell you just how much rearranging flexibility and adjustment ability this year’s Lakers have.

    The Fourth, and FINAL!, reason why I think LO should come off the bench and have no problem with is that winning teams always work through compromises and sacrifices. I believe it is impossible to win anything with everyone on the team getting everything they want. So there will certainly be sacrifices, harsher for some (Hi Luke) than others. Fish’s sacrifice will be reduced minutes so he can pass the torch to Jordan, Kobe’s sacrifice will be less shots, less minutes and less chances to showcase his defensive mantra, Bynum’s sacrifice will be to play as a hard-worker and clean up the others mess without having plays called for him, Pau’s sacrifice will be giving up the inside to mainly roam around 12-15 feet, Trevor’s sacrifice will be to just play hard and not worry about stats…. LO’s sacrifice will be to come off the bench so that he can be more effective in certain situations and create a spark and bring a certain level surprise factor off the bench

    I’m sure Phil’s head is exploding with thoughts

  16. I think everyone is missing the obvious reason Phil brings up the Ariza idea in his press conference — to light a fire under Odom. Remember, when Phil talks about a player in the media it is almost always with a message to said player. In this case, he is threatening Odom’s starting job, something that should be a motivation.

    Again, everyone seems to dump on Odom starting in this lineup WITHOUT SEEING IT. Let’s give it a chance before we decide it doesn’t work. Ariza has yet to show he can consistently hit an outside shot, maybe we should wait to see if he can before we anoint him. I have high hopes for Ariza’s growth, but why not try Odom in the starting lineup before we say him off the bench is the best option.

  17. #16: Kurt, I couldn’t agree more on both of your points. As I said earlier, Phil is not beyond manipulation (actually, it’s a staple of his coaching repertoire) and I think he is setting the expectation for Odom: show me you fit with the other four guys or go to the bench. I think it will be a successful move for Lamar, but if its not we’ll adjust from there. On the second point, Odom has a very malleable game and while he does have limitations (primarily a consistent jumper), he is a solid player across the board and should adapt well to any role assigned to him. I think that Odom has shown he can make the jumpshot (albeit inconsistently), and that with a greater focus and commitment to shooting it, he’ll be better at it than in years past. However, as Kurt mentioned, understanding the skill set of Ariza right now (slasher, lane filler, weakside cutter), is there any reason (outside of the perceived upgrade in defense) that Odom shouldn’t start? Odom is a more well rounded player in all aspects of offense and pure basketball skill, and we have yet to see how his length will impact his ability to guard SF’s vs. what he’s been doing to defend PF’s. While he may not have the pure foot speed of Ariza, he does have superior size and length and should be able to give a little bit of ground and still contest jumpers while still being able to funnel defenders to the right places in order for the help of Pau and Bynum to be disruptive in our team defensive scheme. And it’s really how our team defense improves (which means the meshing of all 5 players, not just Odom’s ability to defend one player) that will make the biggest impact in how well we actually do on that side of the ball.

  18. Kurt,
    I don’t think we are “dumping on Odom” as a starter. His versatility, rebounding, and size would be very beneficial off the bench, at least until Mihm, Powell, Walton, and Vlad show something.

    It’s an effort to picture the best overall rotation for the team.

  19. I too would like to see Lamar get a chance at starting, but I think it’s really almost a matter of semantics – he is still going to get his minutes.

    One advantage of having him come off the bench that I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is that it cushions against his getting into early foul trouble – I can remember a lot of games when Lamar would pick up two or three cheap fouls early and it would affect the rest of his game (as well as the team’s rotations). Having him enter the game 8 or 10 minutes in with a full 6 fouls to use might help him to play more freely, which is when he’s at his best.

  20. Odom as the 6th man is intriguing, but instead of thinking of him as Ginobili we should be thinking of him more in the vein of a Kevin McHale 6th man. Odom and McHale’s skill set are very different, however Odom is more like a McHale 6th man than he is a Ginobili 6th man. As a 6th man Odom should be more willing to play with his back to the basket. After all he would have more players to kick the ball to for a three Vujacic, Farmar, Radmonivich and Walton.

    I too believe that Odom deserves the chance to see what a starting five of Kobe, Bynum, Odom, Gasol and Fisher can do. In a contract year Odom will probably need numbers and he can achieve that easier as the 6th man.

    PJ is blessed with multiple possibilities as he said in his news conference , it will depend upon the match ups as to who will get extended minutes and the team as a whole must be pliable.

  21. hey Kurt
    in regards to the FB&G format…
    could you put the name, time, date of the commentor at the top of the comment?
    I often find myself scrolling down to see who posted it, then I better understand the tone, etc of the comment.
    ie; if it were from John R, then I’d probably read it differently then say if it were from Darius, or drrayeye…etc…

  22. Awesome – training camp is just around the corner. Seems like a short summer…but I guess it always seems that way when your team makes it to the finals and there’s a great Olympics tourny in the middle.

    All I want to say about the LO/Pau/Andrew line-up is that I hope Phil gives them enough time to try the group out before making changes. Certainly, if we aren’t winning and that group seems to be the core of the problem, we should mix things up. But otherwise, I hope he is patient enough to wait until at least a month into the season before benching LO.

    I think we all know he isn’t a perfect player, but he is very versatile. He does too many things well to hide him on the bench. Combine that with his fragile ego, I’m concerned about what making him come off the bench might lead to.

  23. Well put. You canno’t count out LO at the 3 spot – that lineup has to be given a chance at the very least. No need to get cute with the lineups when the starting 5 of Fish, Kobes, LO, Pau and Andrew has the potential to be DOMINANT.

    I am referring to dominant both offensively and defensively. The one major thing that stands out about this lineup is the length. I said a couple months back that our length and height is going to cause a lot of deflections, blocks and havoc, especially with any penetration into the paint. Phil undoubtedly sees that potential:

    “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.”

    Those are mighty words. Scary words for opposing teams cuz Phil wouldn’t just toss out mere possibilities of defensive dominance to the media. Imagine Tony Parker trying to penetrate into a trio of trees with long arms. Or Chris Paul. The Lakers are just gonna have to practice their help D and rotations to the open shooters in the corner or the big man after the initial penetration. Easier said than done.

    If Odom (especially at the 3) earns Phil’s trust on D, it’s cuz he’s closing out on the 3 point shooter. Same with Pau and Bynum and the opposing big in the paint (or in David West’s case – that 15 footer Pau is going to have to close out on).

    As has been said, this lineup has to be given a chance, at the very least. The ceiling of this lineup with all the talent involved (seriously – one of the top 2 players in the world with the league’s premier front line on paper) is scary. I am not trying to promote hyperbole. It’s a more than possible reality.

    Kurt is saying we’re only gonna go as far as our D takes us. That D (the starting lineup w/ LO especially) has the potential to take us really, really far.

    One more thing: basketball players aren’t stupid. The Laker players realize how much talent this team has. I am fully expecting a different level of intensity on defense from the get-go (a la Boston last year) . These players realize how close they were last year and aren’t gonna take health and time for granted. It’s part of the “mental toughness” we keep hearing about. I fully expect to see players diving on the court for loose balls and such – all the hustle plays and a renewed sense of vigor from GAME 1 of the season.

  24. From the posted comments to Phil’s media interview, it would appear that everyone was able to interpret them to fit their preexisting ideas. Me too.

    Let’s start with the player development side. The Lakers are committed to Andrew Bynum, and will probably develop him much like last year–gradually increasing his playing time from 24 to 36 minutes.

    The Lakers are almost as committed to Trevor Ariza, but maybe not for as many minutes. Trevor and Andrew are the X factors this year.

    Under these conditions, Lamar no longer has a clear starting position like before. At first, it won’t matter that much, since Bynum and Ariza will both start the season with fewer minutes than later on. Lamar might even start at the 3 or the 4. As the season ticks away, however, Lamar is likely to be one of the most unusual 6th men of all time. Of course, there might be major injuries like last year, and Lamar could once again save the day. He might once again be the guy who gets us back to the NBA championship.

    But cap realities and expiring contracts might well send Lamar into a different life away from the Lakers before the season is over.

    As a loyal LA Lurker I’ll keep a lookout.

  25. New post up: Know your enemy focused on the Rockets.

  26. drrayeye said, “From the posted comments to Phil’s media interview, it would appear that everyone was able to interpret them to fit their preexisting ideas.”

    You’re probably right. But I watched Jackson’s interview and if he is trying to motivate Lamar by insinuating he might come off the bench, he did an awfully good job of acting the part.

    I want to see Lamar come off the bench. But I don’t look at it as a demotion. And if it happens, I hope Lamar doesn’t look at it that way either.

    I think it’s in his, and the Lakers best interests.

  27. Brandon (26), for many reasons I agree with your perspective.