Phil Jackson Would Turn Dwight Howard into Greatest Center of All Time
Dwight Howard wants Phil Jackson to coach the Los Angeles Lakes, and for a good reason.
According to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, Howard's first choice to replace the departed Mike Brown is the Zen Master himself.
Can you blame him?
Oh, not to mention he is liable to turn Howard himself into the greatest NBA center of all time.
You read correctly. With Jackson at the helm, Iron Man would flourish to the tune of historical dominance.
It's not just that the playbook-wielding genius is no stranger to coaching prolific big men, nor is it merely that his reputation precedes him. This goes deeper. Deeper than the triangle offense Jackson would re-implement and into the perpetual intricacy of his character.
Yes, the triangle offense—though complex—is perfect for Howard. I won't sit here and attempt to explain to you the complete inner workings of its tendencies and ultimate effect, because the only one who could is Jackson himself.
It's that complicated.
Yet at the same time, Jackson has been able to coach numerous players toward understanding it. Bryant thrived within it, and Gasol did too. Even a guy like Luke Walton managed to feign competency in it.
Because of Jackson.
So all you need to know about this offense is that it's all about flow. Not unlike the Princeton offense, it's predicated on constant movement. Unlike the Princeton, though, it relies heavily on player instincts rather than strictly forced floor placement and passing.
Most importantly, however, it not only allows a team to push the ball, it requires it. Such a prerequisite is often unrealistic for teams with capable big men to meet.
But Howard isn't most big men.
He's one of the most ferociously athletic specimens in the league and his ability to run the floor constantly ensures he would thrive under triangle-esque circumstances.
Yet I've digressed. Because this wasn't about the system itself, but rather, Jackson's ability to coach Howard through it. His ability to coach him at all.
Bryant himself will attest to his former coach's ability to bring out the best in his players, to actualize their sources of not just untapped, but unknown potential.
In fact, he admitted as much (via Sam Amick of Usa Today) after the Lakers' first game without Brown on the sidelines:
"He teaches guys to be thinkers," Bryant said of Jackson. "He teaches us the little nuances, the details, the intricacies of the game that just a lot of people know. It's no fault of their own, but when it comes to basketball he's at a genius level. It's tough for anybody to step in those shoes afterwards (with) players who were raised from that tutelage."
You see, this has less to do with stats and more to do with Jackson's reputation as, what Kobe coined, a "perfectionist."
He demands more from his players. He demands perfection.
Which is an attitude, a mantra that Howard has never been exposed to. Jackson won't let him run the team the way Stan Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic did. Through five championships, he wouldn't let Kobe—the most willful of athletes—stage a takeover. And he wouldn't let Howard do so, either.
Andrew Bynum never took too kindly to these methods. The best season of his career came after Jackson's systematic footprints were long gone.
But that's because he wasn't open to being coached, which even Van Gundy himself would tell you Howard is.
Jackson himself can only do so much if a player isn't amenable to change, isn't amenable to evolution. The foundation of his ability to teach so well requires that a player be anything but complacent.
Bryant flourished under his tutelage because he has a continuous chip on his shoulder. He'll be the first to tell you he's the best in the league, yet he'll never lose the need to prove it.
And Jackson builds on that.
Until now, Howard may have been comfortable with the player he is. Since arriving in Los Angeles, though, his already well-documented shortcomings have incurred even more scrutiny and he's rapidly realizing just being a star isn't good enough.
Which coach would Dwight Howard thrive under the most?
That's something Bynum never understood, something he continues to not understand and something plenty of superstars will never understand.
Complacency is the enemy of progress—demanding perfection isn't. Because perfection is a reality that can never be actualized, the quest to achieve it requires perpetual progress and unrelenting effort.
As long as Jackson has a player's ear—regardless of how resentful they may seem—those are values he can instill upon them.
Judging by Howard's willingness to lobby for his return, Jackson has his ear.
Which means the behemoth himself is one signature away from beginning his path toward becoming the greatest center center of all time.
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