Suggested Reading: Phil Jackson and Lakers Defense

Kurt —  December 21, 2009

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While Lakers fans are arguing over the franchise’s top 50 players, two really good things have appeared on the vast Internet worth discussing more.

First is the rather silly “is Phil Jackson going to come back next year?” hand wringing. How the Los Angeles media deals with Phil Jackson versus the national media is different. Phil loves mind games, and is happy to play them with the press. Local writers know that, they tend to look past the literal interpretation of what Phil Jackson says, knowing some of it is done with a wink and a nod. National writers often miss that.

Enter a good, smart national writer, Chris Sheridan of ESPN, who before the game in New Jersey starts asking about next year. And Phil starts playing games a little — he said that if the Lakers win a title would have an impact (something aimed at the locker room as a little goose) and that he was unsure of Jerry Buss would pay him that much again. The second part of that is funny. Jackson was brought back in after the “Rudy T. year that will not be mentioned” to calm season ticket holders and a fan base still pissed about the Shaq trade. Phil was expensive, but paying it was a sign to the fan base that management wanted to win. Phil Jackson is the one coach in the league who can mean ticket sales, and for that reason alone he is worth the $12 million he gets this year. And Buss will pay it again.

I will say (and this is sort of a Lakers media room consensus) that Phil looks as spry and energetic as he has in years so far this season. He seems to be in less pain, seems to be enjoying himself more. Those are the reasons he will or will not come back. Things could change, but if I were to bet now I’d guess he’d return.

However, the story everyone should read is from Roland Lazenby, about storm clouds on the horizon — the potential post-Jerry power struggle between Jim and Jeannie Buss.

Frankly, I began wondering about two months ago and trying to figure when the shoe was going to fall. You see, the drama, or the latest act of the drama, actually began at the start of the season when Lakers owner Jerry Buss brought son Jim out for his yearly meeting with the media. Jerry picked the moment to announce that he was stepping back and turning the franchise over to son Jim. Think about the insult of that for the power couple of daughter Jeanie Buss and longtime boyfriend Jackson.

I think with the Lakers things are going to stay pretty much as they are for the next several years. I hope those storm clouds never get here.


The other thing worth reading if from Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus, talking about how the Lakers have become a defense-first team this season.

When the Lakers got off to a good start defensively this year, it looked like more of the same or the effect of Andrew Bynum playing nearly 40 minutes a night at center in Gasol’s absence. Instead, the success has proven more durable. The Lakers are still battling the Boston Celtics for the top spot in the league defensively, and nobody in the league is holding opponents to a lower effective field-goal percentage.

Some of the credit should go to swapping Trevor Ariza out for Ron Artest. Though the former has a solid defensive reputation, Basketball Prospectus’ statistics show Artest holding opponents 8.8 percent below their usual production. By contrast, they were 7.3 percent better against Ariza.

The bigger factor, however, seems to be the Lakers’ improved perimeter defense. All the trapping they did left them vulnerable to allowing open three-point looks on the weak side of the floor. Opponents attempted about a quarter of their shots against the Lakers from beyond the arc last year, the league’s fourth-highest percentage. That rate is down to 21.2 percent this season, below the league average. The success rate on threes is down as well, from 34.9 percent to 30.0 percent, which is best in the NBA. By cutting down on their aggressiveness in trapping and doing a better job of rotating, the Lakers have made life very difficult for opposing offenses.


Finally, a few of you may remember that Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp was a force on the hardwood as well, playing on a high school powerhouse team along side Sheldon Williams. Well, Kemp just hosted a fundraiser basketball event, and he’s still got some game. (Via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.)

to Suggested Reading: Phil Jackson and Lakers Defense

  1. The only time I saw Jim Buss is when he showed up with Jerry (not in person, of course) and have to say, I am worried.

    I know I’m being overly judgmental and prejudiced, but the way Jim seemed to carry himself and the attire he chose for that meeting gave me a feeling that he was just not ready for it at all.

    Not sure what the proper analogy would be, but he looked as if he thought he knew enough, he thinks that he has a grand idea, and that it is his rightful place to be calling shots, rather than listening and ‘approving’ decisions.

    Too eager to make his own imprint, too eager to prove himself, etc.

    Hope I’m wrong and way too quick to rush to conclusions, but I’d be much much more comfortable with Jeanie here.


  2. Hey Kurt, small note – the link for Peltons article goes to Lazenbys article


  3. There were also several chats featuring Jeannie and the Lakers on espn/los angeles, but not much new info was shared.

    In some form of minor miracle that screams Intervention by Jeannie Phil Jackson himself is supposed to chat tomorrow. I’m guessing he gives short, opaque answers to a handful of questions that are short on depth or specifics, but maybe we can band together to get some real info out of him.


  4. To add to JD’s comment, Derek Fisher gave a good chat. The guy is a real class act and mentions that he doesn’t plan to retire after this season. I hope we find a way to keep him.


  5. (R here) —

    1 – Harold: I don’t know if you are referring to last year after the Game 5 clincher in the Finals or not … At least, I think that was the situation.

    Anyway, little Jimmy Buss got in front of a mike and sounded off about catching the Celtics in titles – with Bill Russell, no less, standing behind him – lol.

    I wasn’t at all impressed …. he looked and sounded like he should still be in Junior High.


  6. 5. I think Harold is talking about the meeting with the Media that Jerry usually has. Jim is the older Buss child.


  7. re: Bulls-Kings



  8. J.D., I just checked the box scores on Yahoo and the Kings came back from 35 down with 8 1/2 minutes left in the third, and 33 down with about 7 minutes left in the third, and won the game. If Vinny del Negro still has a job tomorrow, then Jerry Reinsdorf truly hates Bulls fans.


  9. umm, I hope Jim Buss isn’t the Jack%$& that was allowed to shoot his mouth off when the Lakers clinched the title in Orlando.


  10. this was my favorite line: “As one Jeanie confidant explains, Jerry Buss is a misogynist who refuses to accept the idea that his daughter might ascend to run the franchise that he has owned for 30 years.”


  11. 5. I was referring to what 6 mentioned, but I do recall that scene as well. I think it’s that and the multitude of things I’ve read about him that shaped that image of him.

    I guess the truth of the matter is that I recognize this as to be our golden age, and really understand that it’s fleeting, even if it does last for more than 4~5 years.

    On a side note…

    Did the Laker uniforms change to Blue and Gold, or is that a byproduct of the media switching to digital film? I know that even today, most digital cameras have a hard time with artificial purple and have it show up as being blue. Is that the case?

    Tough for somebody across the pacific to figure out since all broadcasts here have Lakers wearing ‘Blue‘ and Gold.


  12. Deja Vous … wasn’t there a post on FBG like Pelton’s?

    What he doesn’t mention is that for the first time in this Lakers stint, Phil has taken over the direct management of the defense. Kurt Rambis was previously the defensive coordinator.

    Much as Phil is not given credit for the offense, as the triangle is the product of Tex’s genius, he is given little credit for his defense*. His defensive schemes transformed the Bulls to be the best defensive team in modern history. The last 3 peat Bulls team were the best defensive team over the 3 year stretch.

    This team’s defense is less robotic and pre-programmed as last year’s SSZ looked. This team, much like on offense, reads the offense and reacts. Much like the legs of an octopus that extends and contracts, it really does look like there are more than 5 players on defense at times.

    If they keep this up, their defensive rating of 98.7 will be the better than any of the Bull’s team’s and the best the league has seen since the 94/95 Knicks who basically mugged the opposition. (Their rating was 98.2)

    While we like Kurt Rambis, Phil Jackson is a defensive genius and his touch on this team shows.

    *10 titles. Offensive innovator. Defensive genius. Best W/L % in history – by far. And 1 coach of the year.


  13. 8- The really astonishing thing to me is if you watch the clip of the VDN postgame, he seems completely unconcerned like, “These things happen”

    I’m interested to read KD’s behind the boxscore tomorrow


  14. 11 (Bill Bridges),

    That’s fascinating. People always associate Phil to the triangle, even though it was Tex that created it. I never gave Phil enough credit for his defensive mind; people always associate him with offense (it doesn’t help that he’s coached two of the greatest offensive players in NBA history), and not defense.


  15. Sigh. Depressing reading. Egos always get in the way of a beautiful game.

    Jim Buss has not shown the public that he, in any way, is mature enough or ready to take over the franchise. Jeanie’s done a lot more from that standpoint, but then again, we’re on the outside.

    For all his legend, this is the side of Phil I hate. I’ve read The Show and Blood on the Horns and I’m not sure I still know exactly what went on between West and the franchise behind the scenes (not to mention that all writers have an angle), but Phil did have a role in chasing Jerry West from the Lakers. It’s sad, because Phil is almost impossible to criticize given what he’s accomplished. And yet when you look at what West has done, especially as GM…you just wonder what the two of them together could have been like long-term.

    Let’s just say I’m uncomfortable with this, and I hope Jerry Buss decides to hoard the Lakers for himself and delay handing it off for at least several years.

    There’s also the question of how Kobe’s extension plays into this. Is he so loyal to Phil that he’ll hold off on an extension until Phil is back in the fold? My gut instinct says no, but there would have to be a Kobe-approved replacement (the idea of Coach K in the NBA makes me nauseous).


  16. Count me as one of those worried about the long term implictions of an ownership change, but mostly because it seems that there will necessarily be a drop off of some sort from the best owner in sports over the last fourth years. I’m not necessarily all that worried about the specifics at this point, since I don’t really feel like I have enough information to make a real assessment. Any of the likely scenarios has the possibility to go fantastically right or horribly wrong. We just can’t really know at this point. We could have never envisioned Jerry being this great an owner the day he bought the team, so we can’t really know how any of the Buss will do, even if we have been given some info in the form of how they’ve done in their current positions. It’s hard to extrapolate this , though, into the most important aspect of ownership – getting the mix of being involved and letting them do their jobs just right. Jerry has done this incredibly well over the years, letting the day to day stuff go along then jumping in with bold leadership when needed, and it’s hard to imagine anyone, including any of the Buss kids, doing it quite as well.


  17. Just a question to the more knowledgeable: anybody think it would be a good idea to have Bynum come off the bench?


  18. Bill Bridges,
    Thanks once again for refocusing our attention on what is important. Great, great comment. Kurt should have you expand on this for an entire thread – perhaps some of the other NBA people would pick up on this aspect of Phil.

    As for the ownership issue…
    Jeanne has been the visible face of Laker ownership for quite some time, but this does not mean she has any real player evaluation or GM skills. She may well have these, but we just can’t tell that from the outside. That would be like evaluating Michael Cooper based on his scoring average – a common problem with NBA analysts and fans.

    We didn’t like Jim because he came in somewhat green and got on our nerves. Does anyone remember a certain young player who just got on all the veteran’s nerves because he thought he knew it all – number 8, I believe? Jim may well have some real talent in managing the organization and some ability to spot value, but we don’t know this because Jerry and Mitch are the player face of the organization.

    I don’t say all is well in Lakerland, but we would be well advised to hold our comments until we actually know more about the situation.

    Oh, and Kobe probably won’t sign his extension until next summer, because he will be able to avoid the next CBA restrictions if he waits, but they will impact him if he signs now. This has been discussed here before.


  19. spaniardred,
    “Just a question to the more knowledgeable: anybody think it would be a good idea to have Bynum come off the bench?”

    In theory, yes, I think that would be a good idea. But I suspect it would negatively affect Bynum’s attitude too much.


  20. spaniardred

    I think Bynum would be insulted by such a move. He would sulk on the bench and his play would be negatively affected.


  21. Anyone else counting down the seconds until december 25th mostly because of the mamba/king matchup? I’m pretty sure there is going to be a lengthy dispute between the wife and myself once I brake the news of what I’m doing between 2-5pm christmas day.


  22. Let me just say, I am interested in only two matchups right now, and none of them are happening on Christmas. I want to see The Team go against the Green and I’m interested in the match up between the same Green and the Hawks.

    I just think Orlando is uncompelling until Jameer is back and the Cavs are straight uncompelling. It is entertaining to watch everyone get out of LeBron’s way, in end of game scenarios, and have Shaq still not manage it in the 24 seconds allotted, but how many times can I watch Curly throw pie in Moe’s face?


  23. Isn’t there some animosity between Kobe and Jim Buss? During Kobe’s whole “trade me/Bynum” fiasco Kobe mentioned that someone from inside the organization was telling the media that he ran Shaq off. Based on what I read at the time Kobe believed that person to be Jim Buss. Prior to that situation Kobe always seemed to have a good rapport with the Buss family. Afterward things seemed to get icy.

    I bring this up because it was the first time I ever heard anything about the younger Buss. So when Dr. Buss put it out there that he would be handing control to Jim it made me feel very uneasy.

    Jerry Buss has been the best sports team owner of any sport over the last three decades. The man simply gets it. Anyone coming behind him will not even begin to compare. All we can do is hope for the best. The last thing the Lakers need is a behind the scenes family power struggle. Just look at the Dodgers.


  24. On a completely different note, your link to the Grizzlies blog takes you to a weird European link. I think their new address is


  25. Just a strange article by Lazenby, considering that that he knows damn well that Jerry Buss has been saying for years that Jim Buss would replace him.

    Here is a much more insightful article about the Buss family dynamic written 4 years ago by Mark Heisler for the LA Times:


  26. to compare jim buss to kobe bryant on any level is almost laughable. jim buss has not demonstrated any real knowledge of basketball, and thankfully, he doesn’t really have to considering the current make up of the team and front office. (If someone can show me that Jim Buss insisted on kareem mentoring bynum, and that was his plan all along, it would certainly improve my opinion of him. Picking a player is one thing. Developing him is another) If lazenby is right, (and it seems like he is), the best thing jim could do is keep jeanie and pj in the loop. It seems like PJ has mellowed somewhat with age, so maybe a peaceful partnership is possible. I don’t agree with Lazenby saying that PJ was soley responsible for driving jerry west. The logo was (and is) an extremely competitive, neurotic, intelligent and driven dude. It got so bad he could not watch some of the finals’ games on tv. And how can we not forget the kobe/shaq chronicles? I’m sure that still haunts west to this day. (PJ did nothing to improve that situation!) Lazenby’s biggest problem is that the article is pretty slanted. Would be nice to see if there’s any more to the story.


  27. Here’s an interesting article that was written in 2005 about the Buss family and their future plans (according to the writer):,+JIM,+IS+CARVING+HIS+OWN+NICHE+AS+HEIR…-a0135439323