From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: I get the sense he won’t miss these all that much. Most of what Phil Jackson said about the team, the loss to the Mavericks, and the season generally echoed his statements at the podium following Sunday’s loss. The most interesting stuff from Wednesday’s exit interview- and this time there’s every reason to believe in the exit part- came in those moments of introspection, in which Jackson looked back on his career, reflected on why he came back to the Lakers in 2005 and why he’s leaving (for good) now. One particularly interesting moment came when Jackson was asked to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses as a coach:
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: I come not to praise Pau Gasol, but I’m not here to bury him, either. He was completely, unequivocally, and unacceptably bad throughout the postseason for the Lakers, not simply in a statistical sense, but in his ability to impact games, grease the offense, contribute on the defensive side, and more. In nine games, Gasol failed even once to meet his season scoring average, and shot an unbelievably un-Pauian 42 percent from the floor. Gasol is a four-time All-Star, a two-time champion, and a guy working towards a Hall of Fame career. It demeans him not to expect more than what he gave over the 10 playoff games the Lakers played this season.
From Arash Markazi, ESPNLA: There is a closet inside Brian Shaw’s bedroom that takes him back to a time he wishes would stand still. He finds himself inside the small room every summer in late June, on the floor, touching the remnants of a past he can’t let go. He unzips a garment bag, takes out a shirt his father wore to work, his mother’s favorite coat, his sister’s jumpsuit. He hugs the clothes, brings them up to his face and close to his chest as if he were still hugging and kissing those who once wore them. This wasn’t how Shaw was supposed to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and championships, alone, surrounded by old clothes and fading memories. Reliving the horrible night of June 26, 1993.
From Raymona Shelbourne, ESPNLA: here was sorrow in their final parting, but nothing left unsaid. The Los Angeles Lakers’ season may not have ended as either of them wanted, but Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson left on the best of terms. Finished as coach and player, but not as friends. Ready to part and for the next part of their lives, but not to say goodbye. Against all odds they grew together in their second act, forging an unlikely friendship that left both of them better men. When they parted for good Wednesday afternoon at the Lakers’ training facility, Bryant seemed sentimental but not shaken. He will miss Jackson, but does not need him anymore. Having listened and learned, he is ready to lead on his own. “His philosophy on the game, his philosophy on life is something I’ve adopted, and I carry it with me,” Bryant said of his now-former coach. “I don’t think that’s going to change.”
From Dexter Fishmore, SB Nation: Phil Jackson is stepping down as head coach of the Lakers, but his ghost isn’t going anywhere. Phil’s presence will continue to hang over everything that happens in Lakerdom long after someone else has taken over on the sidelines. Depending on whom the team hires as his successor, the offensive and defensive systems Phil installed might remain the core of the playbook. The assistants he’s groomed over the years, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons, could stay on the payroll. His protégé Brian Shaw in a strong candidate to ascend to the Lakers’ head gig. To the front office, Shaw represents the “stay the course” option. His hiring would be a play to ensure maximum continuity from the Phil Jackson era, akin to the election of George H.W. Bush after Ronald Reagan served out his two terms.
From Shane Baker, Larry Brown Sports: “Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum killed the Los Angeles Lakers. Ron Artest is a mess.Lamar Odom could net L.A. some great pieces. The Lakers should trade for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. It’s the only chance L.A. has to ever win another title again. That’s the only way Mitch Kupchak and Dr. Jerry Buss can fix the Lakers in the offseason!” Seems ludicrous? Nonsense! This is Hollywood and there are no limits to one’s imagination, regardless of how asinine and improbable the notions may be.
From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: During their exit interviews today Derek Fisher and Luke Walton endorsed former Laker and current assistant coach Brian Shaw as the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Phil Jackson’s imminent departure leaves an opening on the team for a head coach, and one of the most popular rumors this season has been that Los Angeles will promote Brian Shaw from assistant to head coach. Earlier this season during a game in Portland Kobe Bryant also endorsed Shaw. The quotes from Fisher and Walton seem to emulate Bryant’s original comments.
From Royce Young, Daily Thunder: fter Game 4, I think most of us said something like, “Man, I don’t think I can take another one of those.” So in Game 5, the Thunder took care of us. They ended it in three quarters, not overtimes. The Thunder straight up ran over the Grizzlies in the most pivotal game of the series. The first quarter was close, but after that, it was on. This team flipped something on and basically dump-trucked Memphis for three quarters. The defense was spectacular, the Thunder shot the lights out, the energy never wavered and in the end, Oklahoma City took the biggest game in the series 99-72 to take a 3-2 series lead. I’m not sure I could really pinpoint a moment the game turned, but the Thunder certainly appeared to be the team with the energy. It was probably the home crowd that lifted them up, but the Grizzlies just had an unfocused look about them. They missed a ton of layups, went 14-23 from the line and between Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Memphis only got 24 points and 12 rebounds. Credit the Thunder defense for sure, but the Grizzlies didn’t appear ready for the punch the Thunder threw. And when it connected, they just wilted.
From Rob Mahoney, Miami Heat Index: When LeBron James caught the ball on the left wing with two minutes and 14 seconds remaining in Game 5, he didn’t hesitate. He squared up, rose and fired off the kind of shot he’s been criticized for taking so many times before. James is too effective off the dribble to settle for contested jumpers on a frequent basis, but with the game tied at 87 and Paul Pierce practically daring him to release a 3-pointer, James just couldn’t help himself. The shot went up and in, Doc Rivers called a timeout to regroup, and James sauntered to Miami’s huddle, soaking in every bit of the arena’s energy and Boston’s desperation.
From Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Hoop Speak: Russell Westbrook now battles the Grizzlies while fighting a negative perception. The point guard is a rising force but his teammate is still the bigger name with the better jumper. Failure to get the ball to Durant means Westbrook has selfishly hindered a hero, an awful sin of pride. This is the narrative that resonates around the playoffs water cooler, and it’s compelling as hell. But, I wonder: Is the story more about how Durant hasn’t met expectations and less about how Westbrook has undermined? Though we may remember this as Derrick Rose’s MVP year, its beginning was so much pomp for Kevin Durant’s MVP coronation. The young small forward was coming off a fantastic season, and a dominant World Championship offseason. He was the accidental hero of The Decision backlash, primed for a run at that “best player alive” title. But, Oklahoma City spent a decent season on the media periphery as Rose took the NBA mantle of, “coolest doe-eyed humility beacon.” In the background, Durant played well enough to remain a superstar, even if he lacked for the preseason-level of attention.