COMMENTARY | Ten years ago, I embarked on a Zen retreat in the hills of Los Angeles.
Sunrise to sundown, I sat meditating in near silence. At the end of each session, a Zen master instilled on us the teachings of inner peace, self-realization, self-betterment and togetherness. I reflected on what I had done in the past, wrong and right, and then gained insight on the teaching of cause, condition and effect.
Lakers former coach Phil Jackson introduced similar Zen-like teachings and infused them into his teams and players. It was words, his disturbing calmness, the group meditation sessions, and the teachings he indirectly imparted through his literary recommendations.
Years have passed, but the wisdom I learned has never left me. I recently came across my notes from the Zen retreat, and some of those guiding principles and words of enlightenment could very well be a message for the Lakers who need to take a Zen lesson.
"Everything that happens to us
Is the result of what we
Thought, said, or done."
In essence: Karma.
The way the Lakers treated their former coach by giving him a five-game window and firing him after a 1-4 start to the season or nine days into the regular season. Now the team is 16-21, and urgency has set in as the Lakers sit in 11th place in the Western Conference standings.
Brown, on the other hand, walked away with $9m for the two years remaining on his contract. The defensive-minded coach is probably chuckling over all the talk of the Lakers' pathetic defense.
Phil Jackson and Jim Buss:
The man who brought five world championships to the Lakers seemingly was mistreated during Los Angeles' search for a new head coach following Brown's firing. Jim Buss, the executive vice president of basketball operations, seemed to take a personal jab at the Zen master: Jackson thought he had until Monday to decide if he wanted to come back. Nope. Jackson received a phone call midnight Sunday with the news that Mike D'Antoni got the job, according to reports.
Funny enough, Jackson did the next best thing. He popped the question to Buss' younger sister, Jeanie. Buss, say hello to your future brother-in-law.
Ironically, the Lakers could use the Zen master right about now. Jackson figured out how to balance the egos of Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant. And don't forget, Dennis Rodman. Well, Jim Buss here are two-soon-to-be feuding stars in Bryant and Howard. His solution was never to smile and snap a picture.
Jackson also brought a defensive mindset and system that helped put 11 rings on his finger. Even though the Lakers snapped their six-game losing streak with a victory against the Cavaliers Sunday, that 6-game losing streak was the second worst defensive stretch in terms of points allowed since Bryant became a Laker 16 years ago.
Los Angeles gave up a glaring 111.8 points per game.
The worst stretch - a six-game losing streak giving up 115.5 points -- was in 2004-05 when interestingly enough Jackson left the Lakers. That same season, the Lakers missed the playoffs for just the fifth time in team history. The way it's looking so far this year, this may be the Lakers' sixth.With Bryant, when the Lakers have a pair of losing streaks of four or more in a single season, they fare poorly in the postseason, managing to only get to the Western Conference semifinals once.
2012-13 season (16-21 record)TBD seed (Playoffs: TBD)
L6 (111.8 points allowed to opponent)
2010-11 season (57-25)
No. 2 seed (Playoffs: 2nd round exit, Dallas 4-0)
No. 7 seed (Playoffs: 1st round exit, Suns 4-1)
2005-06 season (45-37)No. 7 seed (Playoffs: 1st round exit, Suns 4-3)
2004-05 season (34-48)
No. 11 seed (Playoffs: Failed to make the playoffs for only the 5th time in history)
L6 (115.5) - most points allowed
Being exposed for what he is - an assistant coach. Last season, he left the New York Knicks out to dry when he resigned amidst a six-game losing streak. Surprising D'Antoni stuck around for the Lakers' six-game losing streak.
Ironically, last season, D'Antoni felt the Knicks stopped responding to him so he left. Looks as if he's on the brink of facing a similar situation in Los Angeles.
For the Knicks, D'Antoni ducking out may have been a blessing in disguise as the organization gave a defense-minded coach in Mike Woodson a shot. Fast forward nearly a year later and the Knicks are now second in the Eastern Conference standings.
Howard seemingly held the Orlando Magic hostage for months. His actions may have been a contributing factor in the firing of both head coach Stan Van Gundy and General Manager Otis Smith. Now Howard is staring at a coach in D'Antoni who doesn't know how to utilize his talents.
The self-dubbed Superman, who had only missed seven games his first seven seasons, had a herniated disk that required back surgery and then he separated the labrum in his right shoulder. The nightmare is only beginning for Howard and the Lakers organization as the guessing game begins on whether or not he will sign with the Lakers (my column last week speaks to why the Lakers should trade Howard now).
Chris Paul and Marc Gasol:
For quite some time, members of the NBA from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban griped about how the Lakers were able to pull off miraculous trades. Think back to 2008 when the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and picks. All things come full circle, however.
The second-round pick was Pau's younger brother Marc Gasol, a bruising center with a jumpshot.
While that trade may have worked out for both parties, the action may have affected the Lakers down the road. This past offseason, NBA commissioner David Stern blocked a trade between the Lakers and New Orleans Hornets that would have sent the league's most dynamic point guard to Los Angeles. Now interestingly enough, Paul is leading the Lakers' in-house rival Los Angeles Clippers to the second-best record in the NBA.
The Zen principle that personified what Bryant does not exhibit:
"In our interactions with others,
Are the source of harmony."
Bryant and kindness just don't go together, but that's just who he is. He tells players such as Gasol to put "his big-boy pants on" and players such as Smush Parker that they just "suck." Bryant has his ways to get players to respond. This season, seething, snarling and gnawing at his jersey hasn't worked.
Even though he is posting his best individual numbers in six years (29.8 points per game and shooting a career-high 47.5 percent from the field), the Lakers aren't succeeding. Bryant can't will his way to a championship without the team playing harmoniously.
The Lakers (16-21) need to go 32-13 the rest of the way to hit the magical 48-victory mark, the average number of wins the eighth seed has won in the past six seasons to get into the playoffs. It won't be an easy feat with 24 away games because more than half (25) are against teams that are better than .500. Los Angeles boasts a 5-12 away record.
After it's all said and done, the question is whether the Lakers brought this all on themselves, and if they can finally come together. Inevitable if they don't - missing the playoffs. Or worse.
"Ignorance leads to ego
Ego to selfishness
Selfishness to resentment
Resentment to anger
Anger to hatred
Hatred to annihilation."
Bryan Chu is a multi-award winning journalist who has covered the Los Angeles Lakers for NBA.com and worked as a sports and criminal justice reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and the Albany Times Union. During his career, the Los Angeles native has covered everything from Jeremy Lin (pre and post Linsanity) to Lance Armstrong. He is currently pursuing an MBA in brand management and business analytics at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. You can follow him on Twitter: BryanChuNBA.