I will fully admit to being biased about the triangle offense. It had produced the most engaging and aesthetically pleasing brand of offensive basketball I have seen in my lifetime, as tweeters who breathlessly followed NBA TV's re-showing of the 1993 NBA Finals last week can attest to, and it has been the driving force between 11 of the last 20 NBA championships. Of course, there are those who will tell you that Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal(notes), Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes) were the driving forces behind those winners, and they wouldn't be wrong.
The offense, to me, allows for perfect spacing and a single-mindedness that allows for players to think for themselves and react in the moment without having to have a play for every single situation or defensive reaction. The biggest playbook in the game, with hundreds of counters for every defense's reaction, will never be able to compete with an active and focused mind, which is why I'm constantly disappointed when more teams don't attempt to work penny-foolish and pound-wise with the exacting offense.
Or, disappointed when they slough it off while using words we can't fully print here. Brian Shaw worked under the triangle as a player and then coach with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 until earlier this year, and he's found a stiff resistance to Phil Jackson's former go-to offense in his short stint as associate head coach with the Indiana Pacers. From Ian Thomsen's fascinating profile of Shaw, from SI.com:
Yet [Shaw's] time with the Lakers hasn't been the boon he assumed it would be, which is one of the reasons he has come to Indiana. By helping the Pacers this season, he may be able to distance himself from Jackson's triangle offense.
"I talked to him last week," Shaw said of Jackson. "I said to him, 'I never realized how many detractors you have out there.' Because when I go out on head-coaching interviews and if I mention the word 'triangle,' it makes general managers and owners cringe. They don't want to hear about the triangle offense, they don't want to hear about Phil Jackson. It was funny, even when I came here and I sat down with them, jokingly Larry [Bird, the Pacers' president] was like, 'I don't want to hear anything about that triangle bull----.' And that's kind of the attitude that everybody has."
Yeah, you know we're going here: COUNT THA RINGZZZ, LB.
Having perhaps the two best players in the game on the court at the same time? Probably helps. But the triangle isn't made for them. It's made for continuity and spacing, and so the two best players (provided one of them is actually running the offense, Kobe) cannot have their moves anticipated by a locked-in defense when things get close toward the end of the game, or (as is often the case) when bench help mixes with the superstars as they put things away midway through the third quarter.
And the Pacers? A team with a center in Roy Hibbert(notes) who is used to finding cutters off the ball at both the high and low post, along with a litany of subpar-to-just-about great wings? With no point guard? This would be a team well suited to adopt its principals.
Those days are over, though. No NBA coach is devoid of ego enough to not look like a lapping Jackson acolyte, so it's just more orthodoxy for you, the NBA fan. Assuming there will be games.
This isn't all Shaw, our new favorite perhaps-too-candid coach. I'm hesitant to quote too much from Thomsen's column but I do so knowing full well that the rest of this piece is well worth your time. Here's Shaw's take on the Jackson fallout in Los Angeles:
"The negativity toward Phil didn't come from Mitch [Kupchak,GM]," Shaw said. "It was more from Jimmy Buss just doubting some of the decisions he made in terms of how he was handling and running the team and coaching the team on the sidelines, and sitting down instead of getting up. People look at coaches and want them to pace up and down the sidelines and bark instructions to the guys. That's not Phil's demeanor. That was viewed as a negative in my estimation -- but it won him five championships with the Lakers and six with the Bulls, and that was his coaching style when he won, so why was that not acceptable now?"
Shaw goes on to tell Thomsen that it took the Lakers a full three weeks to even contact him following the hiring of Mike Brown as the newest Laker coach, while going on to detail the decades-long employees that were let go once Jerry Buss gave his son Jimmy full control of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The younger Buss has been handed that rarest of commodities, a young and franchise-level center that can score and defend, the league's most versatile big man, and the last few years of Kobe Bryant's brilliant NBA run. He has a former Coach of the Year on his sideline and money to burn in the NBA's most lucrative market.
Let's see how this goes.
UPDATE: If you need another voice arguing on Shaw's behalf, look no further than Shaquille O'Neal, who offers this in his new book, "Shaq Uncut: My Story."
Somehow Kobe and I made it through the rest of the year without any major issues. BShaw managed to get us back on track. It's kind of funny when you think about it. All of these supposed Lakers leaders who care so much about the franchise, all these Lakers legends, none of them ever had the courage to say anything to Kobe and me. Not Kareem, not Magic, not Mitch Kupchak, none of them. Only Brian Shaw took us on. Yet when the Lakers job came up in 2011 they didn't give Brian Shaw a chance by looking right past him. Go figure.