Phil Jackson weighed in on Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles tendon Saturday, and in typical Zen Master fashion, his opinion came with subtle doses of ego and smugness:
Kobe wasn’t going to let the Lakers miss the playoffs. We watched him go thru 3 anguishing plays-the last one devastating…— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 13, 2013
It's hard to question Jackson's opinion on anything related to NBA basketball, as his 11 championship rings make a strong case that he's got all the answers. But by implying that Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni could somehow have averted disaster by removing Bryant from the game after he sustained a pair of minor injuries in the early going, Jackson makes a few foolish logical leaps.
if he had gone to the bench after the 2nd mishap? Like Rose ofThe Bulls one can guess, but what’s done is done. Reality not maybe is zen— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 13, 2013
First, he has the benefit of hindsight, which has a tendency to make it awfully easy to pass judgment on the decisions of others. It's a logical fallacy to assume that just because one incident preceded another, the first one caused the second.
Second, people with far more knowledge than Jackson have long been split on the issue of whether serious injuries are as predictable as the former Lakers coach seems to think. It's certainly possible that fatigue, heavy minutes and preexisting conditions might contribute to injuries like torn Achilles tendons or ACLs.
But the jury is still out, so it's a little ridiculous for Jackson to so boldly insinuate that what happened to Bryant was preventable.
As an aside, Jackson's reference to Derrick Rose's injury—a player he's never coached and a situation he knows even less about—hardly warrants discussion. Inviting comparison to Rose's torn ACL in last year's playoffs makes Jackson look about as medically knowledgeable as that other Dr. Phil.
We'll leave Rose's issue alone, though, and return to Bryant's.
For what it's worth, one expert vehemently rebuffed the notion that Bryant's injury was caused by anything more than random chance:
Just off phone with Donald Rose, former Sixers doctor, longtime surgeon to athletes of all kinds. Says Achilles is freak occurrence... (1/2)— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 13, 2013
If we're talking about the intricacies of the triangle offense or what it's like to live like a recluse on a lake in Montana, Jackson's opinion counts for plenty. But when it comes to medical diagnoses, maybe it's better to stick with the experts.
…recent minutes, fatigue or unrelated injuries likely played no role in Kobe's case. 2/2— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 13, 2013
Criticizing D'Antoni's failure to maximize the talent on his roster is fair. It's also reasonable to knock his disorganized defense, questionable rotations and general lack of solutions to the Lakers' problems this season.
But it's intellectually lazy to argue that he somehow could have prevented Bryant's injury by cutting his minutes or taking him out against the Warriors.
Besides, no coach—11 championships or not—could have forced Bryant to dial back his intensity during a furious playoff push.
Jackson knows his stuff, but he should keep in mind that his "stuff" has little to do with medicine or the complicated goings-on with teams he no longer coaches.