For all of his benevolent, dirty hippie wisdom, Phil Jackson can be a real jerk sometimes.
Ask Horace Grant, whom Jackson belittled and yelled at for years, mainly because Jackson seemed hell-bent on disabusing Grant of the notion that (after growing up with a twin brother) the rules weren't the same for every member of a team. That's not a guess, on my part. Jackson actually copped to it.
Or Toni Kukoc, who had to endure some rather tasteless cracks about his Bosnian heritage, while Jackson whipped the one-time European superstar into a just-one-of-many-greats NBA sixth man.
Both approaches worked for those old Chicago Bulls team. To an extent, I suppose. The extent that they won six rings in eight years. Grant did leave Chicago as a free agent in 1994, and Kukoc sometimes played as a confused, tweener-mess in his time under Jackson. Grant, however, returned to play for Jackson in Los Angeles, and Kukoc was rumored to want to head to the Lakers before retiring a few years back, before deciding to stay in the Midwest with his family.
Jackson's newest verbal punching bag is Ron Artest(notes), and things don't appear to be working so great. It's only the first week of February, so there's a good chance this post will seem like ancient history come June as the Lakers possibly roll to a third straight championship, but Ron Artest is clearly struggling.
And, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, he wants out of Los Angeles. Right now, at least. On Wednesday, Feb. 2. Who knows what goes down tomorrow? Or even later today. (After Wednesday's practice, Artest said he didn't want to be traded.)
Artest has been pretty awful this season, it should be pointed out. He's averaging just eight points and three rebounds per game, and unless Kobe Bryant(notes) is on the floor, Ron has been a liability offensively. According to NBA.com's John Schuhmann, Artest is shooting 42 percent from the floor (and just under 40 percent from long range) in lineups with Kobe, and just 27 percent from the field (zero makes from deep) without Bryant at his side.
Worse, his defense hasn't been great at times. He'll still lock down, but nearly as often he'll either overplay, or look a little slow chasing around a small forward.
Best? Ron's mercurial. And while this might not be the best news right now (he avoided the media both Monday and Tuesday, at practice and after a game), he'll turn on a dime, and it won't take much. The Lakers don't even have to win (which is a good thing, because they play the Spurs on Thursday).
Phil Jackson doesn't even have to treat Ron better. It can just turn around, that mood, as anyone who has had struggles in that area of their life can tell you. And the Lakers, as we get closer and closer to June, can keep attempting and finally succeed in getting it all together. And all of these Lakers posts from January and February can look awful silly, when they get closer to that trophy.
Or, it can all fall apart.
Such is life as a Laker. And we're assuming Ron Artest will continue living that life as a Laker, for at least the next few months.
- Phil Jackson
- Ron Artest
- Horace Grant
- Toni Kukoc