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Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Window To The Triangle

If you’re thinking that Lakers coach Phil Jackson would ever move away from the triangle offense, think again.
Jackson is showing off his fabulous new home on Flathead Lake, Montana, for guests at his daughter Chelsea’s wedding this weekend (August 19).
“It’s a museum, it’s a classic, it’s a showplace,” said Tex Winter, Jackson’s longtime mentor and basketball guru, searching for words to describe the place that Jackson has built.
One touch is stained glass on a variety of windows. In the stained glass is a decided triangle motif that riffs on the major geometric karma in Jackson’s life — Winter’s triangle offense. In places, the windows take on such a decided triangle basketball motif that they almost resemble play diagrams. Certainly you can see basketball lines emerging from the art.
The touch obviously delights the 84-year-old Winter, who has spent his life developing and innovating the triangle offense, with its structured-but-free-flowing approach to the game.
“It’s some place,” Winter said of Jackson’s new diggs.
Jackson’s extensive collection of Native American memorabilia (Jackson has frequently beat a tom-tom and chanted to motivate his players during his unusual career) is on display. Jackson spent part of his life growing up near Native American reservations where his parents, both ordained fundamentalist ministers, worked at times with the Native American community. Thus, Jackson’s interest in all things Native American is far from contrived.
His basketball collection — all the primo items and pelts from the 10 championships as an NBA and CBA coach — is mostly displayed in the new house’s snazzy game room.
Another awe-inspiring touch throughout is Jackson’s use of distinctive wood sent from Australia by former Bulls center (and Jackson friend) Luc Longley.
Jackson built the home on the Flathead lot that once held his late mother’s home. Jackson tore down that home to build his masterpiece.
He also owns another home nearby, which has been particularly convenient this weekend. He, girlfriend Jeanie Buss and some family members are staying in the new place, while former wife June and other family members are staying in the second home nearby.
The weekend brings other great news. Nancy, Winter’s wife of many years, has been ill for months. But her condition has improved recently, so much so that she and Tex loaded and drove cross-country from their home in Oregon to the event. Blessed with remarkable youth, Winter has always loved driving, touring the countryside, while thinking about the Lakers and his offense.
For those interested, the upcoming NBA season marks the 60th anniversary of the league. Those six decades coincide with Winter’s own coaching career, so he has marked the occasion by selecting his All-Time, All-Winter team for Lindy’s Pro Basketball Annual, due on newsstands Sept. 15. (It should be divulged here that I have been the senior editor of the pre-season magazine for the past 14 years).
Winter made some interesting selections for his team, old and news players, not so much selected for their greatness as for their combination of skills and coachability.
Of course, the intriguing question is, who among the modern players would make Tex’s all-time team?
How about Shaq and Kobe?
Here’s one tidbit: Miami’s Dwyane Wade is on the list. “I think he’s shown at a very early stage that he’s one of the top guards in basketball history,” Winter said. “He’s got all that talent, but what I really like about him is that he’s one of the most efficient guards to ever play the game.”
There have been a lot of adjectives used to describe Wade since his extraordinary NBA Finals performance, but only Winter breaks the game down in that way.

When Winter questioned the “fire in the belly,” the intensity and the reaction time of young Lakers center Andrew Bynum during summer league play, he wasn’t questioning his character. He was commenting on Bynum’s on-court intensity at times during games.
This is a developmental issue for a young player, not a character flaw. Bynum will have to learn how to jumpstart his energy and reaction time, but those are things that young NBA millionaires, especially 7-1 centers, have to develop, if they aspire to greatness.
I make that clarification in the wake of an email question about the evaluation.
There’s no question that the Lakers badly need Bynum’s contribution, but it is Winter’s opinion that it is unwise to rush the young guy. This, in turn, sets up some difficult questions for the franchise in terms of finding players ready to compete now.
Winter is likewise circumspect on the development of first round pick Jordan Farmar. The young guard out of UCLA has really impressed Winter. But Farmar is a young rookie who left college early, and Winter doesn’t want to see too much pressure on him, either. He will be ready to help the team when he’s ready.

Roland Lazenby is the author of The Show, an oral history of the Lakers featuring 18 years of interviews he’s done with players, coaches, opponents, fans and media personnel covering the team. Lazenby also edits Lindy’s Pro Basketball Annual.


Anonymous joninjapan said...

hey Roland, good to see what Winters actually meant by that reference to Bynum. a lot of people at the LA Times blog were taking that quote out of context.

i heard that you were on ESPN recently talking about the top five reasons you cant blame kobe for the breakup of the lakers, is there a chance that you will be writing up on that??

deepest apologies if you were not on the show


4:57 AM  
Blogger cwolf said...

tremendous post, great insight - thanks roland.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Thanh Lim said...

Hmmm. It's been a while since Roland's updated his blog. Wonder what has happened.

Chirp chirp.

3:13 PM  

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