Phil Jackson: The Forgotten X-Factor

Matt King@TheRealMattKingFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2009

DENVER - MAY 23:  Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers points in the second half against the Denver Nuggets in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 23, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The X-factor has become possibly the most overused phrase in sports today.

It became boring to talk about the stars over and over. Everyone knew that Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony are all going to have big games. 

We wanted to hear about the unknowns—the players that people weren't talking about that would turn the series.

Almost every other player on each team was mentioned—Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Derek Fisher, Mickael Pietrus, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jameer Nelson. All were possible X-factors. It became a competition to see who could come up with the most obscure player that would be a deciding factor.

It turns out the X-factor for this series was not actually out on the floor. He was sitting on the bench, like he always is.

Phil Jackson has been underrated, then overrated, then underrated again. We sing his praises because he has won nine championships, but then dismiss him because he seems like kind of a douche. Eventually, we just accept his greatness and move on, taking him for granted.

I'm not actually a Phil Jackson fan, but watching the game last night made me realize just how much he is overlooked.

In the Cleveland-Orlando series, Orlando shot something like 120 percent from the three. We attributed that to their players, as well we should have, but enough can't be said about how ineffective Mike Brown was in that series. 

Just watching from home, it became obvious that Orlando would just set a screen, get two quick passes, and have a wide open jumper in the corner. This happened over and over. 

Because of this, Orlando shot a preposterous percentage from three which allowed them to dominate the series. We expected the same kind of showing in the Finals too. But we forgot about the X-factor.

If you watched the game last night, you'll notice that Orlando had a much more difficult time getting shots off. This wasn't a coincidence. The Lakers had a better defensive strategy in place. Period.

All of a sudden it becomes clear. The gap between Mike Brown and Phil Jackson was much larger than we realized.

Jackson always gets a bad rap because he always seems to have the most talented players. But managing those players, getting them to buy into your system, and having that system be effective enough to win is a tricky trifecta.

If you had to choose the two best coaches in the NBA today, you would probably say Phil Jackson and Greg Poppovic. They have both won Coach of the Year just once. We get accustomed to their greatness and, just like with stars, we get bored and start looking looking elsewhere for difference makers.

Yes, Kobe was amazing last night. And yes, Dwight Howard played horribly. But the biggest reason that the Lakers will win the NBA Championship is Phil Jackson, the forgotten X-factor.


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