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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How Will The Lakers Err? Pip or No Pip?

Note: Readers, I apologize for not posting a blog over the past two months. During that time, I dealt with some personal issues, sat back and observed, then decided that when I have something to say, I’ll say it. But I’m not going to write just to write. For those of you who have contacted me, I appreciate your interest and concern. Here’s a new post:

Scottie Pippen certainly needs the money, now that a St. Louis court has ruled that he owes an airplane finance company about $5 million in cash for a failed attempt to launch his Air Pip company.
But will his decision to attempt an NBA comeback at age 41 come to be known as Err Pip?
That’s what the Lakers are trying to determine as they ponder what personnel moves to make in the wake of mounting injuries. Their latest casualty is forward Vladamir Radmanovic, lost for up to eight weeks with a separated shoulder.
Actually, even before Radmanovic slipped on a patch of ice and injured his shoulder, the Lakers took note of Pippen’s comments last week to Chicago Tribune columnist Sam Smith.
“Phil has a very high regard for Pippen, as do I,” Lakers consultant Tex Winter said of coach Phil Jackson. “There’s no player who picked up the triangle offense faster than Pippen, nor one who understood it better.”
The Pippen of old was known for doing all the little things that took immense pressure off of Chicago Bulls teammate Michael Jordan.
That, in part, is why Kobe Bryant immediately spoke out in favor of the Lakers bringing in Pip.
Certainly the history is there. Pippen anchored the Bulls’ defense through six championships. Pippen ran the team’s triangle offense. Pippen was the regulator on the floor for Jackson. He controlled tempo perhaps like no other player in the history of the game.
In some respects, the Lakers picking up Pippen seems like a no-brainer. He doesn’t want a lot of money. He just wants to come in and help a team down the stretch to the playoffs.
Ideal for Los Angeles.
At 41, does he have anything left in the tank? Bryant and numerous others talk about Pippen’s exceptional conditioning, his healed knee, his freakishly low body fat.
Does he even want to play for the Lakers? To date, there’s been no official contact. As Winter explained, Pippen seems determined to go to work for a playoff/championship contender, and right now, the Lakers are fading fast from that category.
How do owner Jerry Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak feel about adding Pippen? There’s no clear indication they have enthusiasm for adding him.
Lakernoise conclusion: Running the triangle offense means the Lakers have limited personnel options, because so many players, especially veterans, struggle to learn the offense.
That’s part of the hesitation over Nets guard Jason Kidd. He rebelled mightily against the triangle when Jim Cleamons tried to run it as coach of the Dallas Mavericks in the 1990s.
“Kidd does like to have the ball in his hands an awful lot,” triangle guru Tex Winter observed.
Would Jason Kidd be the second coming of Gary Payton?
That could well be.
Which means Pippen could be all the more valuable to the Lakers, as someone who could help organize bench play and then jump into the mix with the starters for key runs of execution down the stretch.
This much is clear: The Lakers have to do something.
The coaches had a two-hour meeting Monday morning after the All-Star break to figure out how to stop the bleeding of a five-game losing streak.


The key to the team’s offensive production now is forward Lamar Odom, just coming back from injury himself, according to Winter.
The team is getting almost no fast-break opportunities, thus no easy baskets. So it’s up to Odom to snag the defensive rebound and power out on the break.
In that regard, and in terms of triangle execution, the team also misses Luke Walton, who should return from injury shortly.
Walton, too, has that ability to control the defensive rebound and to ignite the break.
However, the onus is on Odom, who is still rounding back into form after missing a couple of months with a knee injury.
The defensive woes, on the other hand, can be tied to two things: 1) Kwame Brown’s absence, also due to injury, in the post (“Peope don’t realize how important he is to us,” Winter says of Brown); 2) Kobe Bryant’s mysteriously lackluster defensive play.
Phil Jackson and Bryant are now tight, which means Jackson wants to control more of the coaching input with Bryant. That, in turn, limits what assistant coaches offer Bryant.
Jackson has raised the defense issue with Bryant, but those conversations remain between the two.
One theory: Bryant has an immense blind spot, aided by his considerable confidence, when it comes to the current state of his defense. He simply doesn’t recognize how bad things are.
Perhaps that’s the best reason for bringing back Pippen. He’s a fresh voice, one who has Bryant’s respect and attention, one who has mastered virtually every element of defense, one who could jumpstart a Bryant resurgence.

Roland Lazenby is the author of The Show, an oral history of the Lakers published by McGraw Hill. Lazenby’s Phil Jackson biography, Mindgames, is set to be released in a special paperback edition from Bison Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG!!You're back. We really
missed you,Roland!I hope everything is ok for you.
I believe Pippen's enormous ego will cancel whatever his game brings.
I don't understand the organizations man-crush on Lamar Odom.I will trade him for gasol without thinking much. We desperately need a low-post player and you know it isn't Kwame.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


thanks for your return to the
"always exciting" world of the Lakers.
your thoughts are always interesting.
i have watched L Odum for the past three years... he does not seem able to "get over" and make LA
better. he ends up with doubles,
yet no real contribution to winning,it seems.

has any Lakers team in memory had this many injuries for the sustained time these have taken???



3:15 PM  
Blogger greg said...

also, but i'm not sure how much it matters in this case, pippen is still trying to sell his house in portland. it's been for sale a good 2 or 3 years now. $3.25 million for those who have some spare change. But please be prepared for massive upgrades. House is 18k sq. ft. and kind of a mess.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Dion said...

I've been a Laker fance since knee high....and I will tell you that as long as smush parker starting at point guard and the lakers are still running this boring and stagnent triangle offense.....the lakers cant be serious. You watch all the Contenders....Miami, San Antonio, Pheonix, Dallas, Houston.....there all running, High pick and rolls, screens, back cuts, motion offenses that attack the the hole. those types of offenses create good spacing, draws fouls, and allows the point guard to creat mismatches with pick and rolls to draw fouls, dish to open shooters....the triangle makes the game tooo difficult and is too predictable. No legitimate point guard could excel in the triangle that's why we can't attract the top players. The triangle is not an attacking offesnse like the's a perimeter offense....that's why you'll continually see a bunch of long range shots all day, while other teams consistently put pressure on our defense with pick and rolls, screens.....that almost forces you to draw fouls.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it clear that lakers management has chosen Bynum over Kobe?I think Kobe is going to serve as a ticket seller until Bynum develops.
The sad think is Bynum is looking like a borderline all-star instead of a franchise player.
I feel sorry for kobe because the guy is so obsessed with his image that he can't see the truth there.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your comments on Kobe. His defense is flawed, and he is so dominant on offense that it disrupts the flow of the game.

Many of the Laker guards play agressive D. But the problem is that they go for the steal instead of shadowing their man. When you reach for the steal and miss, it leaves an open man running down the lane for an easy layup. Smush and Kobe are the biggest problem in that category. They should watch Shane Battier play D. He doesn't average a ton of steals or blocks, but I guarantee no one wants him guarding them in a game. The guy is like glue.

In regard to Kobe's offense... it is too polar. I think he takes Phil too literally. By this I mean he will be as passive as possible for the first 3 quarters. He plays within the offense, and DOESN'T take the open shots it gives him. He'll pass it and give someone else the shot. Then when the 4th quarter comes, he completely abondons the offense and takes on the opposing 5 himself.

Come on Kobe, play within the offense. Take the shots it gives you. He is the best player in this league, but he needs to learn to play with this team and take advantage of his scoring ability.


9:59 AM  
Anonymous D-Wil said...

I too am happy to see you return, Mr, Lazenby. Your understanding of basketball is immense and has been sorely missed by those who love the NBA.

Speaking of immense knowledge, I wrote about why a trade for Kidd made no sense for the Lakers. However, what I had no idea of is the fact that Jim Clemons attempted to have Kidd learn and feel the offense in Dallas. This, then becomes an overriding, and the best, reason not to trade for Kidd.

On Pippen: why not hire Pip to serve the same purpose as Kareem does with Andrew Bynum? Even if Pippen can contribute to the Lakers overall on-court knowledge of the triangle and can want to aid in implementing Phil's Red Holtzman-influenced defensive philosophy, he is, after all, 41 and cannot be quick enough to guard opposing swingmen even for 10 to 15 minutes a game.

However, if Pippen acts as an active mentor to Lamar and/or as an active assistant coach - one able to participate in illustrating triangle and press techniques - Pippen then becomes invaluable to the LA franchise. Of course all of this is contingent on whether or not a position like this suitably aids Pippen's off-court financial woes.......

Welcome back Mr. Lazenby!

12:24 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

Roland we need you now! Whats going on with this team! Is tex on the verge of strangling kobe? AHH!!!!

2:20 AM  

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