Phil Jackson is a overconfident to the point of detriment.
There, I said it.
He has made Herm Edwards-level decisions in these playoffs and no one seems to want to mention it.
The average basketball fan can rattle off his stats at a whim: Nine NBA titles, highest winning percentage in playoff and regular-season history, and most importantly, the man behind the number two and three greatest teams of all time. (The '86 Celtics still hold the number-one spot.)
But this has slowly become a Brett Favre circa mid-2000s situation—his accolades are so numerous that they have become blinders—and fans and reporters alike are the thoroughbreds.
In the 2004 NBA Finals, amidst the turmoil of the Shaq and Kobe fiasco, lost was Phil Jackson's inability to cope with the Detroit defense or make adjustments of any kind. He was provided a scapegoat due to the inability of his two superstars to work together cohesively.
But now, amidst what was supposed to a coast through the Western Conference playoffs, Phil Jackson has been forced into the limelight with nothing to fall back on. The diminished Rockets, devoid of one All Star—McGrady is a selfish prat and they are better without him—and both centers, took the super-sized Lakers to a thrilling seven-game series. Rick Adelman once again out-coached Phil Jackson with a less talented team.
The Conference Finals losses to the Denver Nuggets have now forced us to look at Phil Jackson through a different light; the glass is now stained.
Here are just a few problems that have arisen in this series:
A. Phil Jackson's refuses to give up on Derek Fisher's aging corpse.
Farmar and Shannon Brown bring so much more to the table in this series, but Phil Jackson has always been one to show loyalty to his veterans.
Fisher can't play defense, he can't run the break, he can't get to the hole, and he most certainly isn't hitting clutch threes anymore. In fact, he's shooting a staggering twenty-three percent from long range.
Compare that to Shannon Brown's 50 percent in the playoffs and Farmar's 40 percent, and you start to wonder why Fisher is seeing the court.
B. He likes to rest superstars.
We get it, but when your team is on the cusp of making a comeback in the fourth quarter and Kobe sits on the bench until six minutes are left, you start to wonder if he realizes that we're tied and that Denver is good.
C. The Lakers have an obvious size advantage yet they aren't attacking the basket.
Gasol has gotten half the amount of touches that he had in the regular season. Bynum is on a leash short enough to make Caesar Millan proud. The same problem arose in the Rockets series.
When all is said and done, Phil Jackson is most likely going to go down as the greatest coach who has ever lived. He has more titles in a more competitive era and has mastered the art of working with superstars.
But it is because of these titles that Phil Jackson is where he is at right now. His confidence has crossed the thin line into hubris. His own team is calling him out. He is yelling at referees and everyone else around him.
I guess that's the biggest sign of things gone awry—the Zen master is losing his cool.