Lakers Coach Phil Jackson comes up with a doozy
It appears the Lakers have lost it, the malaise maybe contagious, Phil Jackson possibly the latest victim.
End of the game against Portland on Sunday. Orlando has already won, a loss by our heroes dropping the Lakers behind the Magic for home-court advantage should they meet again in the Finals.
Portland’s best player has injured his knee, and a Portland loss might allow the Lakers to open the playoffs against the undermanned Trail Blazers.
Portland leads by three points, though, a little more than three seconds left, Kobe, Sasha, Fisher and Odom on the court — every one of them capable of hitting a game-tying three. OK, so maybe not Sasha.
Pau Gasol is also out there, you know, to rebound a long-range miss and maybe get it to a three-point shooter for one more try.
The Lakers huddle up. The guy who has more coaching hardware than anyone else, designs a play, as everyone will be shocked later to learn for Gasol, who is 18 for 81 in his NBA career from long range.
Kobe takes the court laughing, and he almost never laughs. Gasol walks onto the court with his arm raised as if shooting an imaginary ball, a tipoff to Portland of what’s coming had the Trail Blazers believed Jackson really had lost it.
So what was Phil thinking? Or, was he?
“Were you tired of drawing up big shots for Michael Jordan and Kobe?” I asked Monday afternoon. “Were you just trying to get a laugh out of Kobe? Or, was it some kind of commentary on your team’s three-point shooters?”
Right away, Phil turns to the rest of the media and says, “Should I hit him or just laugh with him?” Fortunately, Plaschke isn’t back from the Masters and unable to answer.
Here’s the deal. I wasn’t at Sunday’s game, because like Kobe, my fingers could use the rest before the playoffs begin.
I know there were a number of reporters, TV and radio types who were there Sunday, but no one apparently challenges Jackson for going Gene Hackman on everyone and using Jimmy Chitwood as a decoy.
The Lakers have more media covering them than any two teams in town, and no one asks Phil why he has Gasol going World B. Free on everyone.
Just on the oft chance, though, Gasol forgot who he was and did say, “I can make it,” I checked with him Monday and he’s still surprised Jackson wants him shooting.
He vows he will start practicing the shot for the next time Phil calls on him, no crazier, I guess, than Joe Torre telling everyone he wants to see more of Vicente Padilla.
I just want to know whether Phil knows what he’s doing and really thinks Gasol might make the shot, and he says, “next question.”
Later, I give it another try.
“OK,” Phil says. “I’ll tell you what I told everyone in the huddle. The first look is for Fish who can redeem himself, redemption for his missed free throw.
“Then we had Kobe setting a pick for Pau,” he says, and too bad the cameras weren’t focused on Kobe’s face when Jackson told him to become a blocker on the final play of the game.
There was speculation on the radio that Jackson didn’t want to show Portland an out-of-bounds play the Lakers might very well run next week in the playoffs.
I guess that’s believable if you think Jackson & Co. didn’t mind losing the home-court advantage to Orlando and the chance to play Portland possibly without its best player.
Lamar Odom says he didn’t laugh when Jackson called on Gasol, figuring Jackson was going with the guy least likely to get fouled and get a shot off.
Derek Fisher says he was “one of the options,” but the most important thing was to get a good shot off, and Gasol did that.
Later, I bump into Jackson and tell him his players have come to his defense. Surprisingly, he doesn’t say, “they never play defense.”
Instead, he raises his arm, his hand curled into a fist, the son of a pair of preachers exclaiming with a grin, “I really wanted Fish’s redemption shot.”
Hallelujah. Maybe Phil hasn’t lost it after all.
DON’T KNOW whether it had anything to do with him just setting picks now, but Bryant texted Jackson on Sunday to tell him he wouldn’t be playing the final two regular-season games after saying earlier he would.
The Lakers said Bryant’s injured finger is bothering him. Texting can do that.
I’D LIKE to see every Masters broadcaster hooked up to a machine capable of delivering a massive electrical shock, and each time they say a golfer is “brave,” they get zapped. Let’s see how brave the broadcasters are.
IN HIS short time on the job he managed to figure out how to get the best out of Baron Davis, seemingly an impossible task.
Kim Hughes, though, has only one more game to coach before he loses his job, but what a class act, engaging, principled and honest. His only shortcoming, he was coaching the Clippers, who will have to start over again for the sake of public relations and selling tickets.
The pressure is now on Neil Olshey. Never heard of him either. He’s acting GM, replacing Mike Dunleavy because of the Clippers’ “win now” mandate, the team going 3-15 so far under his guidance, Olshey suggesting now the mandate should have been, “winning now and then.”
A GM with a sense of humor is probably just what the Clippers need.