Former Los Angeles Lakers coaches Phil Jackson and Mike Brown have every reason to thumb their nose at the current state of the Los Angeles Lakers. Both were spurned by Jim Buss the team's front office in November as Mike D'Antoni took over as coach, and both have watched as this mess of a team fell to a 9-13 record in a year many thought would end in a championship. Yet both have taken the high road. Or, as you're about to read, the dullest road imaginable.
On Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, hours before the Lakers fell to 9-14 with a loss to D'Antoni's former New York Knicks team, both spoke about the state of the Lakers in impromptu (Phil, after dining out with his girlfriend and Lakers executive Jeannie Buss) and orthodox (Brown, on Sirius/XM's "Off the Dribble" program) interviews. Not much was said. Phil is up first, as quoted by Fox Sports West:
The reporter asked Jackson if he'd go back to the Lakers right now "if they offered you the gig?" Jackson responded with a half-laughing but fully drawn-out, "Noooo. They'll get it going."
When asked if he really believed the Lakers would turn it around, he responded with a serious "yeah."
TMZ: "You think a championship?"
Jackson: "Well, no, I don't know about that, but..."
I didn't expect Jackson to call Jim Buss the rudest of words in the company of the man's sister, and he was out to eat, so it's understandable that the full-on cocktail napkin X's and O's breakdown had to wait. And even if Phil Jackson was chomping at his soul patched-bit to take on this Lakers team and make everything right, he wouldn't attempt to work things mid-stream, with two fired head coaches already on Los Angeles' payroll and without a training camp to work through.
Mike Brown's obvious take is a little stranger. The "Off the Dribble" show probably wasn't looking for fireworks, in a sense I'm not either, but a little chalkboard analysis wouldn't hurt. Brown made his hay as an obsessive film guy, so could he give us a little inside baseball with this team? Something involving flex cuts or defensive shows or X's and O's banter that happily flies way over our heads?
Not today, Sirius/XM listeners.
I understand that Brown, because he was fired, is still being paid by the Lakers. That he's of no great urgency to either parlay his analytical talents in a money-making realm, and that he's classy enough (and, has a big enough vested interest enough) to not lay waste to Los Angeles' significant personnel problems that are no fault of his own.
"It's going to take Mike a little bit of time because he's got his two starting bigs in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol," Brown said. "So now what he's going to have to continue to try to mix and match and find minutes for is for Antawn Jamison. Do you play him at the power forward or do you try to play him at small forward some? So there are some things, I think, that Coach D'Antoni is still trying to figure out."
"They've been struggling, obviously, as of late, but I think they do have a nice team, and Coach D'Antoni has won many times before in the past," Brown said. "Especially when they get Steve Nash back and Pau, I think obviously those are two big ingredients for that team to be on the upswing. As soon as they get those guys back on the hardwood, I think they'll be heading in the right direction."
That's not just keeping us punters away from trade secrets. That's pablum of the highest order. To recap:
They have two bigs. Antawn Jamison is a tweener. The coach is still figuring it out, and he's won over 50 games in a season four times in his career. They're struggling. The return of two very good players in Steve Nash and Pau Gasol should help. I think, pretty sure, that they'll move into a better place once Pau and Steve return to full health.
Maybe this is all these two can say, at this point. Maybe the Lakers, struggling mightily at 9-14, are this flummoxing. Maybe the team really is in a shrugged shoulders state.
The Lakers are getting the Miami Heat treatment. Even without a 2012 NBA title to their credit, teams have been gunning for the hoped-for championship contenders since the beginning of the season, even while the team continued its extended training camp after a winless and injury-plagued preseason. The pressure and injuries and coaching shakeups delayed any sort of cohesion, but that didn't stop the scheduled games and resultant losses. The group has a miserable pick and roll defense and doesn't communicate at all in transition. Dwight Howard was acquired to make up for myriad defensive sins and hopefully turn the team into a top-10 squad defensively, but has struggled to play like himself.
And, worst of all, the team's lack of effort to begin games speaks to something distressing.
It's as if the Lakers know that they won't be worth much without Nash or Gasol around, and the team appears to be entering games already half-beaten. Completely unprepared to meet a team that is treating its opponents like the defending champs, completely unprepared because of personnel issues on the defensive end, and out of sorts due to personnel shifts and a lack of practice time. Toss in the lack of confidence, and you have an unholy mix that an easy win over the Washington Wizards on Friday won't likely help to debug.
Also, they have to figure out whether or not Antawn Jamison is a power forward or small forward. Or so says former coach Mike Brown, who is apparently now offering advice to the 1999 Golden State Warriors, and coach P.J. Carlesimo.
We're not after soap opera dramatics from the former and hoped-for Los Angeles Lakers coaches. We're just after answers regarding the NBA's most interesting mess. Forget the big boy pants, Phil and Mike, and bust out the dry-erase board next time.