Phil Jackson, Draft and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  June 24, 2009

SEC Mens Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal : Florida Gators v Auburn Tigers
It’s a cornucopia of stuff today.

Let’s start with Phil Jackson’s announcement that he may want to take some road games off next season and let Kurt Rambis coach them. I will say that once I started working for this season and being credentialed, one of the first things I really noticed is that Phil Jackson is hurting far more than you see on the broadcasts. It is not easy for him to get around, and in person, watching him walk to the court and around the locker and interview room, it was far more evident how uncomfortable he is.

I think this is a great way to start the transition out of the Jackson era. Jackson not doing some of those back-to-back roadies, some of the taxing trips, missing eight games (give or take) is no big deal. The Lakers will have largely (or exactly) the same roster as this year, Phil has control of this team already, a few missed games will not hurt this. And it gives Kurt Rambis a chance to establish and prove himself. If Jackson is stepping into a consulting role (he’d never totally walk away) in the middle of a championship window the transition needs to be as smooth as possible (and the team should not dramatically move away from a triangle offense it is built to run).

A few fans balked at this because Rambis was not smooth as the coach for the one game he handled this year. But if you want to cut him out for losing one road game in Portland, where the Lakers haven’t won there since 2004, your criteria are a little to high. Rambis will get the chance to grab the brass ring, whether he does or not is on him. But he is a true Laker guy, he deserves the chance.

• This is one of those drafts that in five years is going to have fans of some (many?) franchises saying “How could you let Player X go by and draft some schmoe we cut three years later?” But right now, it’s so hard to predict who the schomes and who the stars will be. Outside of Griffin, there are major concerns in everyone’s game and to me this looks like a bunch of role players, especially once you’re past spot three or four. But a couple of these guys will step up over time, flesh out their game, and the GMs that pass on them will hear about it.

• The TrueHoop Network of blogs is hosting one large — Supersized! — live chat that night, and I will have a link to that up. The draft is not that but a deal for the Lakers fans but it will be a fun and exciting one to watch. And chat about. Also, check out the new TrueHoop Network podcast hosted by the brilliant Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm (and like every other blog in the universe) talking about the top few picks with the bloggers from those teams.

• There already have been and will be on draft night so many trades and moves that any mock drafts out there border on moot.

• I am holding out hope that somehow Nick Calathes drops through to us (not that optimistic, though). analyst David Thorpe told me he thinks Calathes will pan out to be the best PG in the draft.

• Long time friend of the site Xavier sent over some thoughts on two of the other Europeans that the Lakers are looking at. (For those that are new here, Xavier is a professional coach in Spain in the youth program that produced Ricky Rubio, he really knows his stuff and the European players).

Rodrigue Beaubois is a freak guy. He has the physical tools but still don’t know how to use them. Speed and athletic, with a superb wingspan, something like 6?10 or close (correct me if I’m wrong) measuring 6?2. Lacks of true PG skills and though being a good athlete doesn’t move his feet well on D. He plays in France, which isn’t one of the premiere leagues in Europe, so I haven’t seen him play against proven European players. Could be a project ala Sun Yue. Not worth of a 1st round pick if you want him to contribute but if he can wait in Europe a couple years.

The guy the Lakers should aim with its 42nd pick is Victor Claver. I was right with Marc Gasol, believe in me with this one. [Editor’s note, Xavier was telling me Marc was better than we all thought from the day the Lakers drafted him.] If Claver didn’t hurt this season, he probably would have been drafted in the early 20s. He’s not a star, but he really has the tools to be a good role player. At 6?10” is a PF able to move in both forward positions. Can finish at the rim at will and knows how to shoot the 3 (around 40% before injury) but lacks of shoot creation, most of his 3s come from spot up shooting. Slow defending at the wing but not rocky enough down the paint.

He’s pretty smart, doesn’t turn the ball over, mainly because he know what he cannot do and adjust to his role. Right now, after the injury I would not give up a 1st round pick on him, but that might be a blessing. Euros being projected in late 1st round prefer to be selected in the 2nd round because it doesn’t have the same salaries restrictions. They can stay in Europe and sign a better contract than a first round pick. Look at the contract Marc Gasol (former laker 2nd round pick) have in comparison to Farmar (1st round pick). So if Claver lived up to his expectations playing a year or two more in Spain, the Lakers wouldn’t be in the same situation Spurs are with Thiago Splitter, who’s not coming to the NBA because he’s a 1st round so his salary is determined, and he gets much much more money playing for Tau Vitoria.