With a blazing 7-0 start to the 2010-2011 NBA season after an impressive win against the Portland Trailblazers and the way the Los Angeles Lakers are playing defense, especially on the perimeter, it can’t help but bring to mind an earlier rendition of a Phil Jackson coached team
During the 1990’s, the Chicago Bulls tandem of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were labeled “the Dobermans” by league insiders and opposing players because of their lockdown ability on the defensive side of the ball.
Those two literally could harass and chase down perimeter players and made it nearly impossible for guards to advance the ball, let alone setup their team’s offensive sets. Their length combined with speed and quickness allowed the Bulls to play some of the best defense the league has ever seen.
When the Bulls added a third defensive superstar to the mix in 1995, Dennis Rodman gave coach Phil Jackson three defensive weapons that not only brought intensity but talent. The result was a 72 win season the first year these three hooked up and led to a the second of Jackson’s three-peats in 1998.
Former Laker coach Pat Riley coined the phrase “rebounds and defensive wins rings.” In the case of Phil Jackson, this point might be underrated. It's hard to see the mastery on that side of the ball with such offensive juggernauts like MJ, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant fogging the picture.
But the real view is that Jackson excels at defensive.
This year, Jackson might again have a group of players that are adopting his pack mentality and creating nightmares for opposing teams on the defensive end. Look what the Lakers did to Portland on Sunday night.
Some of this may or may not show up on the stats but will count when the games matter most: the playoffs.
This is pure pack mentality. The Los Angeles Lakers have assembled a new pack that is prepped to give opposing players serious trouble.
Take a look at this slideshow and you’ll see what I’m talking about with MJ’s Bulls and now a possible return of the Doberman’s for Phil Jackson's Lakers this season.
Let's look for a minute at those great Bulls players before we move on to their Laker counterparts of this year.
The pack leader was always Michael Jordan. No one got after the ball on the Bulls better than MJ. His fearless and relentless leadership on defense set the tone for the rest of the team.
Michael Jordan wears the crown as the greatest of all-time because he proved it on both ends of the court. He could guard anyone one on one.
Besides LeBron James and Magic Johnson, no other player has had the athleticsim, speed, and size like Scottie Pippen. At 6'9", Pippen could handle any guard on the perimeter. And, his length caused serious problems.
Scottie Pippen entered the NBA unproven. He was a rough diamond that got polished by being around, practicing against and playing with Michael Jordan. MJ's fire and intensity turned Pippen into a great.
Pippen could not only defend but rebounded with wild abandon.
Dennis Rodman, aka The Worm, had already won a Defensive Player of the Year award (with the Pistons) before joining the Bulls. The issue would be if Rodman could be controlled.
But with coach Phil Jackson the master of the mind and MJ being pack leader, Rodman never got out of line or pulled any stunts, at least not on the court.
Rodman played with intensity like each game was his last. He defended and rebounded and sacrificed his body for the team.
Rodman also got under opposing player's skin and knocked them off their game, even the legends. His addition to the Bulls took MJ and Phil's team from great to historic. No wonder they won 72 games.
Jackson's prowess on the defensive side of the ball has been under-appreciated.
This year, Jackson has three Laker perimeters defenders who excel at on the ball defense.
With Kobe Bryant getting back to full strength from knee surgery this summer, he’s a mainstay on the All-Defensive team each year.
Kobe can always cover the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Kobe demonstrated at the 2008 Olympics just how dominate on the defensive end he really can be.
Ron Artest is a former Defense Player of the Year in the NBA who was partly brought to LA last year for his defense prowess. It paid massive dividends in last June’s NBA Finals when Artest did an admirable job on the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce.
Artest can also match-up against LeBron James.
And, Ron can even cover smaller players, like he did on Sunday night against the Portland Trailblazers Brandon Roy. Artest bodied up the smaller Roy holding him to a season low.
Not many teams have such a player who possess the size, weight and speed to stick with these type of unique superstars.
But this year, the Lakers not only have Artest to call upon but now added Matt Barnes off the bench.
Barnes is another on the ball pit-bull, who can handle speedy guards all the way up to the James/Pierce types. So, if Artest or Kobe get in foul trouble or Jackson wants to keep Kobe fresh for the offensive end, Barnes is now another weapon.
Like MJ before him, Kobe is now joined by former enemies, Ron Artest and Matt Barnes, two more lock-down defensive players. And, both Artest and Barnes used to be adversaries of Kobe, just like Rodman was to MJ in the past.
Also, like Artest in 2009, Matt Barnes is another battled tested gladiator who Kobe has respected for many years. Exactly like Ron Ron the year before, Kobe wanted Barnes to go to war with him after years of battling against each other.
No one can forget last season when Kobe and Barnes went at it. The crowning moment of the back and forth between these two players was on an inbound play when Barnes faked throwing the ball into Kobe's face. But Kobe not only didn't flinch, he didn't blink. That's a warrior.
Now, Kobe has Barnes to go to war with him. Barnes only adds to the pack defense mentality of the Lakers.
The proof is on the scoreboard. Seven wins and zero loses.
Want to learn more about Kobe Bryant's Warrior mentality, check out the new book The Kobe Code at www.PatMixon.com.