Phil Jackson Unwise to Turn Down Chance at NBA Title with Brooklyn Nets
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Phil Jackson has declined the opportunity to become the Brooklyn Nets' new head coach. David Aldridge of NBA.com had previously reported that general manager Billy King had extended an official offer earlier this week.
While questioning the Zen Master is never wise, Jackson was wrong to turn down the chance to win an NBA championship with the Nets.
Not only did Jackson decline Brooklyn's job offer, but he stated that he's no longer interested in coaching. This comes after a season in which he was nearly named the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, but was passed over for Mike D'Antoni.
Even if it was to be expected, it's never easy to imagine the NBA without Jackson coaching.
It appears we'll have to be content with our nostalgia from here on out.
Jackson is back in the basketball world, as he's currently consulting for the Detroit Pistons as they search for a head coach. Even still, anything short of a head coaching gig feels like we're missing out on pure greatness.
Perhaps we should have listened when Jackson told us he was done with coaching months ago—even if it is the wrong decision.
Starts with the Center
If there's one thing to define Phil Jackson's legacy—you know, besides winning 11 championships—it's his ability to turn a dominant center into a championship-caliber big man. He's done it with Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, to name a few.
There's no reason the same couldn't be done with Brook Lopez.
Lopez may not be the best rebounder, but that's about all that he struggles with. In fact, Lopez is elite in every other meaningful statistical category and nearly carried a heartless Nets team into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Perhaps if there were a little more effort, the All-Star center would be dueling with the Miami Heat right now.
As for those who debate Lopez's elite status, it's imperative that we acknowledge the numbers. Although we often pick and choose when statistics are applicable, mostly when a player's reputation warrants them, Lopez may just be the best center in basketball by the numbers.
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Lopez led all centers in scoring, Player Efficiency Rating, Estimated Wins Added and Value Added.
Furthermore, Lopez was the anchor for the NBA's sixth-ranked scoring defense. He tallied 2.1 blocks per game and had an undeniable impact on the team.
Per NBA.com, the Nets allowed 91.8 points per 48 minutes with Lopez on the floor and 94.7 without him—a full 2.9 point difference.
Elite Talent, No Motivation
No matter where he went, Phil Jackson was able to do what few men in the world would have been capable of. That, of course, is containing some of the largest egos in the history of professional sports.
For example, he led the combustible Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal to three titles and managed to help the massive personalities of Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman coexist.
With this in mind, Jackson likely would have no trouble tackling a team with stars such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. There would be no questions about what their roles are and the team would be able to peacefully coexist.
With limitless depth for both ends of the floor, it's hard to imagine the Nets as anything short of title contenders.
Williams, Johnson, Wallace and Lopez are all former All-Stars that remain high-caliber performers, if not in their prime. Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche, meanwhile, both ranked in the Top 35 of rebounds per 48 minutes, with the former leading the league.
The true tale of this team, however, is not in the ability—it's in the fact that they didn't know how to play with one another.
Yet to Come Together
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Brooklyn Nets finished with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. They boasted a 23-18 record on the road, finished with a positive-1.8 point differential and finished with an 11-5 record against the Atlantic Division.
They did all of this while going through two head coaches and never quite understanding the meaning of ball movement.
Brooklyn finished the season with a ranking of 27th in terms of assists per game. More importantly, it was 25th in percentage of field goals assisted (via NBA.com).
A team with a win percentage of .598 had absolutely no clue how to play with another—how are you not intrigued by its future?
If Phil Jackson came to Brooklyn, becoming a legitimate title threat would be as simple as teaching his team how work off of one another. Not only is this something Jackson could do, it's how he's won 11 NBA championships.
Nothing is guaranteed in the NBA, but if all you're missing is chemistry, the Zen Master is as close to perfection as you'll find at correcting just that.
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