Around The World (Wide Web): Saturday Reading

Darius Soriano —  May 14, 2011

From Bill Simmons, When I think of Phil Jackson, two guys come to mind: Young Phil and Old Phil. Young Phil was skinny with dark hair and a goofy mustache; he looked like he came from another era, like someone Larry Dallas would bring over to the Regal Beagle to meet Jack Tripper. Old Phil didn’t look anything like Young Phil: white hair, a clean-shaven face, a heavier frame, and a body that was scattered in nine different directions. Still, Young Phil and Old Phil had one thing in common: They kept their cool at all times. That trait defined Jackson as a coach. He couldn’t be rattled. He never overreacted. He measured every response, thought out every media barb, dealt with every player with the same steady hand. These past 20 years weren’t exactly easy for Jackson, even if the narrative has morphed into “Well, anyone could win eleven titles with Jordan, Shaq and Kobe!” In 1992, a best-selling book called “The Jordan Rules” nearly imploded the Bulls. In 1993, his best player disappeared for 18 months. In 1997, the relationship between Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause became so contentious that Jackson asked Krause to stop traveling with the team. In 1998, Dennis Rodman started partying so much that Jackson and a few others had to have a makeshift intervention. In 2001, Shaq and Kobe’s relationship started to deteriorate, a three-year spiral that bottomed out when Kobe was accused of sexual assault. In 2005, his general manager traded his second-best player for Kwame Brown. In 2007, Kobe spent the summer and the first month of the regular season desperately pushing for a trade. Jackson managed everything. There were times when he failed — the 2004 Finals, most notably — but you could never say he lost his cool.

From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t LieThe last time Phil Jackson left the Los Angeles Lakers, the team was chafing under his guidance, and abandoning its defensive and offensive principals. 2003-04 was a tough, soap opera-y go of things, and Jackson wanted out. The team, though it preferred him staying, wasn’t exactly broken up about it. The Lakers, looking for veteran guidance, then hired former Rockets player and coach Rudy Tomjanovich. He had led Houston to two titles just a decade before, and he was itching to get back on the sidelines after Jeff Van Gundy usurped him in Texas. He was a vet, he knew all the players, and he was more than comfortable on a sideline. He kind of stunk as a Lakers coach, though. His isolation style didn’t sit well with the players who had worked through Jackson’s ball movement offense for several years prior, and both Rudy T and the Lakers amicably parted ways midway into 2004-05. So why would Rick Adelman be different?

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: After the Los Angeles Lakers of current vintage exited the playoffs disgracefully, in more ways than one, it behooves us to travel back in time to remember this franchise the way we should, as one of the classiest and most successful in the league.  No era epitomizes that style and grace from the top down better than Showtime.  Behind Magic Johnson’s charismatic smile, and Pat Riley’s can do anything attitude, the Showtime Lakers were the toast of the NBA.  They won five championships in eight years, and they did it without having to make any sacrifices in either substance or aesthetic.  Their winning got people’s attention.  Their style made them stand out.  Their stars made them adored.  But it was their love for each other, and their commitment to the team, that gave them class.

From Mike Bresnahan, The LA Times: My editor called with the chance to think like an NBA general manager for a day. I jumped at it. Can’t be that difficult, no? The assignment: List five trades that would help the Lakers, would not be laughed at by an opposing team and would be allowable under the NBA’s complicated trade guidelines.The trades target the Lakers’ need for speed in the backcourt, better shooters and/or a backup center who can rebound and block shots. Next season’s salaries are listed for comparison’s sake. Keep in mind that teams don’t like giving long contracts to players who are not superstars. Translation: Nobody is barging through the Lakers’ doors and demanding Ron Artest(three more years, $21.5 million). So, here are the hypothetical trades:

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Even when the Lakers were playing well and a title felt possible, “Dwight Howard to L.A.?” was a common talking point among media and fans. So you can only imagine the traction this topic has gained since the Lakers were unceremoniously bounced by the Dallas Mavericks one round later than the Orlando Magic were eliminated. The din has grown so loud, Howard recently tweeted complaints about the Orlando Sentinel trying to “push him out of” town. (Sentinel writer Mike Bianchi acknowledged the paper’s speculation about Howard’s future, but correctly noted how several outlets, including ESPN, have also busted out Tarot cards.) Like it or not, the big lug has officially reached “water cooler” status. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the commonly asked questions regarding a potential acquisition of Howard by the Lakers.

From Mike Trudell, Basketblog: To further translate, Bryant has been selected by a panel of selected media members as a top two guard in the NBA for 60 percent of his career, and as one of the top six for 86.7 percent of his years. Shaquille O’Neal used to join him as the center on the first team in the early portion of Bryant’s career, while Pau Gasol has now been there alongside him for the past three seasons, in 2009 and 2010 on the third team, and now the second team in 2011. Yet another selection brings Bryant still further into elite status, just two behind record holder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15). Karl Malone and Shaq are next with 14 total honors, with Kobe and Tim Duncan next with their 13. Duncan was a third-team selection in 2010, but did not make the cut this season. Malone’s 11 selections to the All-NBA first team are the most, with Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Pettit, Bob Cousy, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Michael Jordan next with 10 apiece.

From J.A. Adande, To a man, the players insisted they could get back to the Finals next year with the roster intact, while Jackson said they need an infusion of speed and Kupchak kept his options open. Players also spoke in favor of assistant Brian Shaw’s succeeding Jackson as coach, although that’s something that could be beyond the powers of anyone who came inside the stuffy, crowded room in the Lakers’ practice facility and spoke into the microphones and recorders. Executive vice president Jim Buss, the son of team owner Jerry Buss, will be the point man on the coaching search, and with Jackson revealing he hasn’t spoken to Buss all season, the coach apparently won’t have any influence on the matter. Kupchak will, but it’s worth noting that the last time the Lakers hired a coach other than Jackson, Rudy Tomjanovich in 2004, it was Jim Buss’ call. Jerry Buss always prefers up-tempo teams, and Jackson said that next season’s team needs to be faster to get easy baskets, but the roster as constituted isn’t set for that. None of the top three players — Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum — would benefit from running. The Lakers are in no rush to hire a coach, not when it could be many months before there are actually games to play because of the pending lockout. After Jerry Buss shelled out more than $90 million for a team that played only five of those lucrative home playoff games, don’t expect extra expenditures. As reserve player Luke Walton said as he struggled to carry some belongings to his car without so much as a bag or box, “Cutbacks, man.” While the players cleared out their lockers, I cleared out my digital recorder, searching for audio clues from throughout the season in the search for what went wrong with the Lakers. The answers could be found in a select few days during the season, starting with Day 1.

Darius Soriano

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