by Akiem Bailum
On Twitter: @Li495Akiem
And as we know, no one likes to be teased, especially this much.
Remember back in your school days when there was someone you had a huge crush on and really wanted to talk to that person. Surprisingly, that person starts talking to you first and things start to go extremely well for about until you find you that he or she’s already taken.
Laker fans can now relate.
A few days ago, we found out that the Los Angeles Lakers had indeed parted ways head coach Mike Brown after only their first 5 games. The Lake Show had become a boring infomercial as they had lost 4 of their first five in the regular season and went 0 for 8 in the preseason (if it means anything).
Laker brass had all but admitted that Mike Brown’s implementation of the “Princeton Offense” that involves continuous ball movement and spacing out was not compatible with this star-studded Laker squad.
With the unceremonious Brown-out taking place in LA, all eyes and indications seemed to turn to Phil Jackson. The number one question was did Phil even want to coach anymore. After numerous reported conversations Mitch Kupchak & Jim Buss had with Phil, the vibes were positive that Phil was preparing to come back. He even cancelled a speaking engagement in Chicago to prepare to return to the Laker bench.
Of course, when you are an 11-time champion in Phil Jackson, you come with a rather hefty price tag. Reportedly, he demanded $10 million a year, full power over basketball decisions, and the ability to take off the majority of road games (most likely to those games contested east of the state of Texas).
Phil clearly wanted the job. The fans were preparing for Phil to take the job. Reportedly, Dwight Howard even wanted Phil to get the job.
Phil didn’t get the job.
Instead, that went to former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni. The entire Southern California region spat out their morning coffee as they heard the news. So was Phil himself.
D’Antoni’s price tag isn’t as hefty as that of the 11-time champ. He’ll only be paid $12 million over 3 years (3 years guaranteed, 4th year being a team option).
Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, for whatever reason, just teased the entire Southern California region into believing that Phil Jackson would be returning to run things once again. If it’s one thing you don’t do, it’s tease Laker fans. Los Angeles is first-and-foremost a Laker town with no professional football team (for now) in that city. Many in Laker Nation are ticked enough that not all of the team’s games are available on TV in the region because not every cable company has agreed to carry their new network.
There’s been much speculation as to why Phil Jackson didn’t get the job. It could’ve been because the Triangle Offense was incompatible with Steve Nash. It could’ve been because his demands were too high.
And let’s not forget that whole thing about him dating Jeanie Buss. Even when he’s not visible, he’s still very close to the team.
If they felt the Triangle Offense wasn’t compatible with this cast of characters on this team, why even talk to or interview Phil? It’s clear that his relationship with the Buss family is so close-knit that they don’t know how to move on from him even if they want to. If they’re trying to move on from the Phil Jackson era, it’s admirable since he won’t want to coach forever, but the 11 championships are hard to pass up even if he wants more money.
Also, if Jim Buss didn’t give him the job because Jackson wanted to control the basketball making decisions, it’s clear that Jim Buss is nothing but a son playing with daddy’s toys.
Anyone who heard the Laker fans at the Staples Center on Friday Night knew that they had already made their choice with the chants of “We Want Phil”. Every indication was that they were going to get Phil. Given his track record in LA, that’s what makes this such an egregious tease.
That was only the first. The second is just around the corner.
Mike D’Antoni’s track record as a head coach is most remembered for his Phoenix Suns teams flaming out in the playoffs after having great regular seasons. D’Antoni was Nash’s coach in Phoenix. In 2005, they lost in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs—a team that actually did practice defense that year. In 2006, they’d lose in the postseason to the Dallas Mavericks.
D’Antoni’s style is to turn every basketball game into a track meet. The word “defense” is a foreign word to Mike D’Antoni.
That’s where’s the tease comes in. Every Laker game for the rest of the year just became the All-Star Game. D’Antoni’s style of ball will bring excitement, it’ll create highlight reels on Sports Center, and it will put fannies into the seats at Staples Center.
But, Laker fans are similar to fans of the Yankees or Manchester United. Anything less than a championship ring for the purple and gold is considered a failure of a season. D’Antoni’s track record does not exude much confidence that it’ll change in LA especially when he had those Phoenix Suns teams that looked like the league’s best team.
Plus, Kupchak and Buss have a bigger problem looming this summer if they fail to hoist a championship banner. Dwight Howard can leave Los Angeles after this year and they could find themselves in the exact same fix that the Orlando Magic did after this year. I saw when the media talked to Howard about the hire today and his body language didn’t look like that of someone who felt the team made the correct hire.
To make a long story short, if Howard doesn’t feel the Lakers are where he’ll win a championship, the Brooklyn Nets (where he really wants to be) are right there waiting.
Let the Showtime begin! Lights…Camera…Action! Take 1!