From Ramona Shellbourne, ESPNLA: Phil Jackson is retired, we think. The Los Angeles Lakers season is over, we know. But that’s about all the certainty in longtime assistant coach Frank Hamblen’s world these days. “I’m not looking to retire yet,” said Hamblen, who has been with the Lakers for 12 years and is the longest-tenured assistant coach in the NBA. “I think I have a good two or three years left in me. So I just have to wait and see what [the Lakers] do, and keep my options open.” Hamblen, 64, played a key role on Jackson’s staff for seven of his 11 NBA titles. He also coached the Lakers for the last three months of the 2005 season, after Rudy Tomjanovich abruptly stepped down.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Less than a week has passed since Phil Jackson limped his long body out of the Lakers’ practice facility for the last time. Since then the team has pieced together a short list of candidates: two tested veterans (Rick Adelman and Mike Dunleavy) and two guys looking for their first stint on the sidelines (Lakers assistants Brian Shaw and Chuck Person). Keep in mind, it’s still early in the Lakers’ coaching search, but those are the first names to draw interest. Interviews with L.A. general manager Mitch Kupchak will go on hold for about a week because he flew to Chicago on Tuesday to attend a pre-draft camp and will continue on to another camp in Minnesota to look at prospects; the Lakers have four second-round draft picks, but no first-rounder. Kupchak is scheduled to return to Los Angeles next Tuesday night.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Much of the chatter surrounding the Lakers’ search for their next head coach has focused on the Triangle offense. What will become of it now that Phil Jackson, its zealous apostle, has left town? Do the Lakers need someone who will preserve Triangle purity? Do they even want someone who will? Much less overt thought has been given to the Lakers’ defense, even though it’s equally in need of a strategic reassessment. This past season, the effectiveness of the Laker D came and went. At the All-Star break, they ranked 10th in the league with a defensive efficiency (i.e., points allowed per 100 possessions) of 105.7. Not a bad mark, but not really up to championship snuff. Then Andrew Bynum began dominating fools, and after the break the Lakers posted a defensive efficiency of 102.1. That was more like it!
From Kevin Arnovitz, Heat Index: Lost amid the inspiring return of Udonis Haslem and the late-game heroics of LeBron James was the best performance nobody is talking about this morning — Dwyane Wade’s defense in Game 2. Wade was simply brilliant on the Bulls’ side of the floor on Wednesday night. His 40 minutes in Game 2 were a composite of his best defensive attributes, both his instincts and his fundamentals. Over the course of the evening, he covered all three of the Bulls’ shooting guards then, when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, he took on the assignment of handling Derrick Rose. Wade’s electrifying defensive effort began 15 seconds into the game on Chicago’s very first possession. Wade was covering Keith Bogans, who has been a lightning rod for Chicago fans all season. With Bogans on the court in the postseason, the Bulls are scoring only 94.4 points per 100 possessions. When he’s on the bench, they’re a robust 106.8 points per 100 possessions.
From Matt McHale, By The Horns: In Game 1, the Bulls won with defense and rebounding. In Game 2, the Heat won with defense and rebounding. Don’t get me wrong. There were other factors. Plenty of them. The Bulls missed on a lot of open looks. Shots they hit in Game 1 became shots they bricked in Game 2. I lost count of how many shots rattled around the rim or went halfway down before popping back out…but there were several. If two or three of those wide open looks had snapped through the nylon, maybe things turn out differently. Or maybe they don’t. We’ll never know. The Bulls also shanked 10 free throws. The most painful of those misses came when Derrick Rose short-armed two in a row with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter and the Heat leading only 73-69. It also hurt when Taj Gibson failed to convert the free throw on an “And 1? opportunity with 2:29 left and the Heat up 78-75.
From Danny Savizky, Hardwood Paroxysm: There’s such a stigma about softness in the NBA. It’s commonplace to idolize those players who embody toughness, who sweat blood, who play through pain, who seek out contact like Eddy Curry seeks out all-you-can-eat buffets, who fear no opponent. Now it’s just as normal to belittle the finesse players — the ones who spare viewers the macho routine, who don’t need to feel dominant to play basketball. Basketball is a sport of grace, that requires the utmost focus and skill — the greatest player will be a meticulous tactician, a heady player who knows what he’s doing. Basketball is a game of grace and fluidity, but it seems that those qualities can only be appreciated if there’s a ferocity underscoring them. It’s really not surprising that the embrace of manliness has come to the fore. As the NBA has evolved, the game has become decreasingly physical, metamorphosing from a game primarily defined by bruisers to a game appreciably defined by skill. Many feel a need for sports to be contests of strength and hatred for one’s opponents, so it makes sense that these fans would cling to those aspects of classic basketball and long for more of that style.
From Janis Carr, OC Register: An oversight or are the Lakers taking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for granted? Those are two explanations offered up by the former Lakers great as to why he doesn’t have a statue outside of Staples Center, leaving him feeling “slighted.” Abdul-Jabbar, who helped the Lakers attain five NBA championships, said the team owes him a statue, alongside other former Lakers Magic Johnson and Jerry West. There also are statues of Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya. “I don’t understand (it). It’s either an oversight or they’re taking me for granted,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Sporting News in a recent interview. “I’m not going to try to read people’s minds, but it doesn’t make me happy. It’s definitely a slight. I feel slighted.”
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Any Laker fan who goes through their DVR can find countless clips documenting Pau Gasol’s lackluster showing in the playoffs. There’s the dramatic: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson berating Gasol and thumping him on his chest during a timeout in the team’s Game 3 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. Gasol expressed frustration whenever Dirk Nowitzki nailed a difficult jumper over him; when his (Gasol’s) shooting slump continued or when he missed a defensive rotation. There’s the execution: Gasol appeared passive on offense and avoided contact in the lane. He mostly gave up on defense. And he left most of the rebounding duties to Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. From Drew Cleszynski, Stadium Journey: There are a handful of venues in each sport that seem to transcend the balance. Baseball enthusiasts enjoy the historical venues – Fenway Park, Wrigley Park, and the old Yankee Stadium. The NFL loves its modern bells and whistles in Lucas Oil Stadium and Cowboy Stadium while the NHL tends to judge its best venues in terms of fan bases. Certainly Madison Square Garden in New York and the banners hanging at TD Garden in Boston hold a place in a basketball fan’s heart. In recent years however, the Staples Center has seemingly become the basketball capital of the world. With its’ futuristic look and cascading lights atop the arena, the venue has become one of the most identifiable in all of sports. It hosts not one, but two NBA franchises and can facilitate a home game for both the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the same day!