2011 NBA Playoffs: Sorry Mr. Jackson, This Is No Way for a Legend to Retire
However, few would have expected a four game swept.
It took six games for the Lakers to get past Chris Paul and the New Orleans, but the Dallas Mavericks didn't appear to be a serious threat at their bid for a three-peat. Many though Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd wouldn't be able to stretch the series past five games.
That's exactly what happened.
This series won't need a Game 5 or 6 or 7 after a 122-86 blowout win for the Mavericks that left the Lakers embarrassed in several ways.
Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry combined for 15 three-pointers off the bench and outscored the Lakers starting five.
Later the scene at the American Airlines Centers turned ugly for different reasons after Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were ejected in the fourth quarter for flagrant fouls.
The Maverick's sweep is one of the bigger NBA playoff upsets in recent memory. It may be a bigger upset than the Memphis Grizzlies over the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Although it's hard to argue against an No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed as the bigger upset, the way the Lakers lost is what stands out.
Dallas entered the season is a competitive team in the western conference, but appeared to be an aging team that had seen better day. Few Mavericks fans would have argued a week ago that the 2011 Dallas Mavericks are better than they were in 2003 or 2006-2007.
Especially, after Caron Butler's knee injury during the second half of the regular season.
However the team's depth prevailed through the series whether it was Dirk Nowitzki's ability to keep up with Kobe or J.J. Barea's fourth quarter antics.
This was not the case for the Lakers who were unable to get consistent production from anyone besides Kobe Bryant. At times it looked the Laker teams from the pre-Pau Gasol era, when it was often Kobe playing five on one. Andrew Bynum was productive in this series, but Gasol's struggles carried over from the New Orleans series.
Now the Lakers are left pondering what to do in the offseason to retool this roster.
Their championship window has not completely closed, but they are from being the cream of the crop. This core has aged after three straight NBA Finals appearances and their competition has caught up to them.
Phil Jackson won't be around for this transition period. This is not how most basketball fans imagined his career finishing out.
He and Kobe were suppose to lead the Lakers to their second three-peat of the 21st century, setting up a perfect ending for the greatest coach in NBA history, especially with an aging team and the uncertainty of a lockout.
Instead, he will leave the game after the first sweep ever of his NBA Playoffs coaching career.
Jackson would have left the game with a fourth three-peat and would have further separated himself from the Red Aeurbach in the argument for greatest coach ever.
In the long run, these four games will only be a small portion of his larger accomplishments.
After all, Auerbach's coaching career ended in a five game series loss to Wilt Chamberlin and the Phiadelphia 76ers in 1967. That doesn't seem have a large effect on his legacy.
What Jackon will be remembered for is leading a team to a championship on eleven occasions and coaching three of the best to ever suit up in an NBA uniform.
On several occasions Phil Jackson could have had his fairy tale ending. However, he never could have achieved the legacy as the greatest NBA coach of all-time.
He could have stayed retired permanently after the 1998 NBA Finals, unlike Michael Jordan.
Six titles in eight years is great, but why stop when you can coach the next great superstar tandem in Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The ideal ending for Phil Jackson's career was suppose be the 2004 NBA Finals. A victory that season would have put him ahead of Auerbach for the most championships ever for a head coach. It also would have been the story book ending for a historic team on the verge of epic collapse.
The eventual breakup of the Shaq and Kobe seemed inevitable, but not before a five game losing effort against the Detroit Pistons. Jackson was let go as a head coach, then returned a year later to rebuild the Lakers.
It's unlikely the Zen Master will take a year off and return to coaching like he has done twice before. He won't be teaching Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire the fundamentals of the triangle offense, taking his talents to South Beach or coach a young team on the brink of title contention.
Instead, Phil Jackson will leave the game a legend, but in disappointing fashion, like Michael Jordan.
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