A double-team trap
So Kobe Bryant has finally found a wingman, somebody to stand beside him and blast away at the Lakers, blowing up bridges, burning down fences, two soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder in the fight for justice and truth.
Good for Bryant, but bad for the Lakers.
Because his wingman is, um, ah, er, their coach.
Charged with healing this summer’s deep wounds, Phil Jackson will apparently show up bearing salt.
Instead of beating down the rebellious Bryant, he is apparently joining him.
Two outlaws working together to steal the last remaining bits of Lakers sanity.
Crybaby Cassidy and the Zendance Kid.
Jackson made his views clear this week in a series of interviews that, in subtler tones, were just as indelibly damaging as Bryant’s tagging spree of several months ago.
Like Bryant, Jackson said that a member of the Buss family misled him.
“We were promised by Jim Buss we’d have big changes,” he told Petros Papadakis and Matt Smith on their KLAC radio show. “We’ve yet to see that. We’re still looking for that.”
Like Bryant, Jackson intimated that Andrew Bynum might be more valuable as trade bait.
“There’s incredible pressure for that kid to step up and produce this year,” he told the radio hosts, later adding, “He hasn’t had the kind of success that generates the kind of press he’s had.”
Finally, like Bryant, Jackson talked about the need for the Lakers to repair the relationship torn apart by Bryant.
“I think actions are going to have to speak louder than words. . . .” he told The Times’ Mark Heisler. “It’s going to take some mending and other people in this organization have to be part of it, too.”
If you didn’t know better, you would think that Jackson and Bryant shared not only a Staples Center bench, but a timeline for fleeing that bench.
Actually, they do.
Jackson is in the final year of his contract, and has said he will not agree to an extension offer until, among other things, he is confident that the Lakers can contend.
Bryant, if he shows up and plays this season, would undoubtedly be traded afterward rather than be allowed to opt out of his contract before next season.
In other words, they’re both short timers who have lost their patience, which is no excuse for also losing their manners.
While we have come to expect this stuff from Bryant, Jackson should know better.
He’s entering the Basketball Hall of Fame today, and rightfully so. He’s the best coach in pro basketball history, period.
Red Auerbach also won nine championships, but he did it with one team in easier conditions against fewer competitors.
Jackson has won championships with two teams from two different conferences, with vastly different kinds of players, handling much bigger egos and many more distractions.
More than any other coach, Jackson belongs in Springfield’s hallowed halls.
But when he returns to Los Angeles, he belongs in the Lakers’ doghouse.
There are 10 million reasons why.
Jackson may own basketball history, but the Lakers still own him.
Jackson’s sense of survival may center around Bryant, but his sense of responsibility must lie with the team.
By publicly ripping a club executive, he is engendering team distrust. By refusing to fully support Bynum, he is breeding team insecurity.
By standing so strongly alongside Bryant, he is weakening every corner of a locker room that already fears Bryant.
When Bryant whines, he is only hurting himself.
When Jackson whines, he hurts everyone.
Think it will be harder to make a fair deal for Jermaine O’Neal, now that the head coach is publicly forcing ownership’s hand?
Think it will be harder to coach Bynum, now that the head coach has intimated Bynum won’t be ready in time to help Bryant win a title?
Oh, and during a summer when patriarch Jerry Buss was torched by his best player and later pleaded guilty to drunk driving, does it really help alleviate the perception of family chaos when his daughter’s boyfriend publicly embarrasses one of his sons?
I never thought I would say this about a man who I still feel wrongly traded Shaquille O’Neal and backed Bryant and brought much of this upon himself.
But Jerry Buss, who has given this town many more glorious springs than nasty summers, deserves better.
He deserves for Mitch Kupchak to finally realize he should trade Bynum and Lamar Odom for Jermaine O’Neal and a chance to win now.
He deserves for Kobe Bryant to realize he should just keep his mouth shut about all that.
More than anything, he deserves to know that Phil Jackson will settle his superstar instead of inciting him, and publicly support his ownership instead of undercutting it.
Jerry Buss needs to know that the Hall of Fame’s newest coach will once again act like, you know, a coach.
Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke
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* Coached nine teams to NBA championships (tied with Red Auerbach for most in NBA history).
* One of three head coaches to win an NBA title with two different teams.
* First coach in NBA history to lead a team to three consecutive championships three different times.
* From 1996 to 2003, led his teams to NBA record 25 consecutive postseason series victories.
* Named one of the 10 greatest head coaches in NBA history (1996).
Source: Basketball Hall of Fame