Sorry Kobe, but Phil Jackson's Return Is Not a Cure-All for the Lakers
If ESPN is correct, there is a good chance that Phil Jackson will be announced as the newest coach of the Los Angeles Lakers sometime on Monday, but before Lakers fans start dreaming of a return to the NBA Finals it would serve them well to remember how Jackson's last stint in Hollywood ended.
For most Lakers fans the mention of Jackson's name summons memories of the five NBA championships he helped bring to Los Angeles, but all I can mostly remember is the four-game sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks that served as his latest curtain call.
At the end of the 2011 season Jackson seemed disinterested, uninspired and detached, and it was reflected in the passionless effort of his team on the court.
According to an article by Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports, the Lakers' work ethic had disappeared during Jackson's final days as coach, and he had apparently lost control of the discipline aspect of his team.
Some of this can be seen in the immaturity of center Andrew Bynum during the postseason, and the body language of most of the other Lakers as they sleep-walked through one of the most embarrassing playoff moments in their history.
After that debacle most people figured that Jackson realized it was time to hang up his clipboard, and while we were certainly sad to see him go, we also looked anxiously toward what the future had in store for the franchise.
Unfortunately, there were few who thought the immediate future would include Mike Brown, and it may be the utter and complete failure from that experiment that has everyone waxing nostalgic about the potential for Jackson's return.
Kobe Bryant has already given Jackson a ringing endorsement, and if Jackson does return motivated he will definitely be a major upgrade over Brown.
However, contrary to popular opinion, Brown's Princeton-style offense was not the reason the Lakers stumbled to a 1-4 start. It was Brown's inability to correct his defense, and a reserve unit that is arguably worse than last season's woeful bench team.
Jackson is more prominently known for the triangle offense, but most of his teams in Los Angeles were among the top defensive units in the NBA, and so it's a good bet that the team defense will improve, but how will Jackson fix the bench?
And if he can miraculously find some sort of rotations that can make his reserves seem productive, Jackson must still confront the Steve Nash dilemma.
Once Nash returns from injury he will be forced to learn his second new offense in a couple of months, and it doesn't help that his skills are no better suited for Jackson's triangle than Brown's Princeton scheme.
Nash is a superior floor general, but his game thrives on creating opportunities for his teammates. But in Jackson's scheme it's the offense that creates scoring opportunities, not the player.
I'm not sure how Nash will react to being reduced to primarily an outside shooter, but effectively utilizing his talent is just one more issue Jackson must confront and conquer if he accepts the Lakers top job for the third time.
Bryant seems confident that Jackson can help him capture his sixth ring and based on their previous history I can understand his enthusiasm. But Jackson's presence on the sideline alone will not cure all of the Lakers ills, especially if he is still the same coach we last witnessed in Dallas.
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