Questions To Answer; 10 Reasons The Lakers Wear Shades
Two questions in particular came from my appearance Nov. 13 on AM 570, where the hosts hit me with some outstanding questions.
First, what a great time to be a Laker fan. Championships are fun, but Phil Jackson has always pointed out that it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile.
If that’s the case, this might be the time you sit back and enjoy the scenery, even if it involves taking in an ugly loss like the one to Detroit in Staples Center.
There are many major things going on here, but I’ll highlight just 10 reasons things are good for the Lakers.
1) The emergence of Lamar Odom as a fantastic player; he’s got so much talent, and while his comfort level with the triangle has grown slowly, Tex Winter thinks the coaches need to adjust the offense for LO so that more great things happen; get him on the wing at the 3, Tex says; let him work behind the defense at the mid wing, and also in the pinch post; then move him down to the post where he can do snaky things to drive defenses crazy;
2) The maturing of Kobe Bryant, from Boy Wonder to Veteran Leader (which is really just about the time in life that Michael Jordan began to emerge from his cacoon as well);
3) Luke Walton establishing his game on a pro level as a guy capable of feeding the team and still getting 20 on any given night (admit it—he has stunned many of you);
4) Andrew Bynum finding his way with unexpected playing time and the guidance of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bynum’s emergence is a great tribute to the Cap, who, let’s face it, has been disrespected in his retirement years; now everyone understands just what a “special” coach is);
5) Phil Jackson regaining his health and vigor, which allows him to have a true enthusiasm for the game (this just might be item no. 1). I’ve had my differences with some of the games that Jackson has played in the past, but his coaching approach has always been liberating, not just for his players and teams, but for the game itself. Jackson’s biggest contribution just may be that he changes the way other coaches think about the game;
6) Tex Winter, at 84, remains ready and able to focus his brilliance and passion on the Lakers and the game itself, always playing devil’s advocate for Jackson, always willing to say exactly what he thinks, consequences be damned (I suspect this is the real reason the Hall of Fame gatekeepers won’t honor him with the admission he richly deserves; he has offended certain powerbrokers with his honesty). Jerry West could engineer Tex’s admission to the hall in a matter of months, but he hasn’t done so. Tex, meanwhile, will contribute more to the Lakers this year because his wife of many years has regained her health;
7) Jordan Farmar in his first weeks of NBA experience has goosed his many fans; they’re ecstatic with what he has shown to date;
8) Kwame Brown and Smush Parker remain notable reclamation projects, who will eventually find solid ways to contribute in a shifting team chemistry;
9) Mo Evans with his bountiful talent dancing at the edge of the picture, slipping into sight just long enough to blow people’s minds with something strong around the basket. He’s just learning the triangle, but as he does, look out. He’s got something for the NBA, and won’t people think Mitch K. is smart when Evans gets to show it;
10) The Running Game, long the heart of Laker lore, was put on the shelf while Jackson and Shaq walked their way to three championships. But now the Running Game is back baby, a tip of the hat to Mitch and Ronnie Lester and Jerry Buss; they found players that both fit the triangle and the running game; and as Tex always points out, the triangle is always ready to be morphed into what works best for the given talent on any team; that’s clearly the case with these Lakers; they just have to work out the kinks. Tex wants them to find ways to get out faster, to go, go, go, because that’s when they truly strike some terror in the hearts of their opponents.
November 13th, 2006 20:27
Heard you on AM 570 today, great insight. Keep up the good work.
Question- do you think that we will see more games like that against the Bucks where Kobe and Odom are both signifficant? Do you think that was a “fluke” or a sign of things to come? I realize that it was the bucks, and they are in serious trouble right now, but I nonetheless saw finally Kobe and Lamar both being big contributors as Tex talked about.
Your question fits my list of 10 things so well, Elyse. Kobe and Lamar and the coaching staff long for that growing chemistry between the two, indeed with the rest of the team as well. Kobe and Lamar know that as their on-court work becomes more balanced, things will only get better. You hate to say that just as Pippen matured in Jordan’s shadow, then stepped out of it in absolutely brilliant way, that’s the way K. and LO will grow. They are not the same people as MJ and Scottie. But the circumstances are somewhat similar. This coaching staff has been here before. They know how to grow a team. The journey of it truly is our fun, to watch the progress, the backsliding, the adjustments. Let’s hope the basketball gods are with them on this one.
November 13th, 2006 20:39
I also heard you on 570 am this evening and really enjoyed your insight regarding Phil, Kobe, Shaq & the Lakers. I wonder if you could expand on your comment regarding Shaq not allowing Phil to have a meaningful relationship with Kobe? I find that very interesting and believe that Laker Nation is finally now ready to understand fully the problems Shaq caused with team chemistry.
Shaq is a great guy, great wit, huge sense of humanity. He also propelled the Lakers to three championships. You gotta love the guy. But he ain’t perfect. Did he have shortcomings in regard to Kobe? You betcha. But Kobe contributed to those as well. As Tex says, “There was just always this thing between them.”
Phil needed that primo relationship with Shaq to coach the team. When Phil arrived, the way he won Shaq over was by showing allegiance to him, not Kobe. Phil did what he had to do. Phil’s critics said he did more than he had to do, perhaps tormenting Kobe too much to please Shaq and certain others. But the trophies are shining in their cases as we speak. They sparkle brightly for a Laker future. Hope is alive. Shaq and Kobe can eye each other from opposite sides of the continent, finally able to let some of the old conflict die down.
In fact, there’s the scent of real competition in the air. Shaq now bathes in the glow of his fourth championship ring.
In getting it, he told everybody that Pat Riley was the best coach he ever had. Phil is so competitive. And Kobe?
Those guys ache to answer.
To do that, they have to get all the Laker ducks in a row. That’s the journey.