Changing of the Guard: the Curtain Call for Coach Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher

Let’s celebrate how two kids from Lower Merion High and Little Rock Arkansas ran the league under the guidance of a Coach who inspired his players through Zen and handing out book. And just like Jackson, we saw Kobe and Fish mature and develop as players right before our very eyes.

Together they prematurely ended the era of the big man (Duncan, KG, Rasheed Wallace in his prime), while fending off a league revolutionized by guards (Wade, Rose, Paul, Westbrook).

Fittingly the Lakers hired Jackson to teach Fish and Kobe how to win after being swept by the Spurs in 1999.  Now with nothing left to prove, the three exit with another sweep at the hands of a different opponent.

What goes up must come down, right Mr. Newton?

After the Shaq-Kobe era imploded in 2003 (failing to four-peat) following an ugly loss to the Spurs, Fisher recalls the Laker management added nine new players the following year.

Fisher expects more changes to be made now that the Lakers have failed to three-peat. Rumors are swirling that Dwight Howard might come to STAPLES Center to help Kobe get his sixth ring.

“Mitch Kupchak needs to get on the phone with Otis Smith and tell him that anyone on the roster besides Bryant you can have,” Jon Barry quipped.

But perhaps that’s not the proper resolution.  As I stated earlier the league is now being dictated by fast, athletic, point guards and it may be time for the Lakers to find one of their own.

With Coach Jackson gone, may it be time to find a replacement for Fisher?

In 2004, the Lakers re-tooled by adding future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton. You can bet that the Lakers will make a splash again this off-season.

Next year, I expect the Lakers to be in contention for the Larry O’Brien trophy yet again, this time without the coach that is accountable for 11 of the last 20 NBA championships.

In a fitting end to a legendary career, the so-called Zen Master reflects that “all my hopes and aspirations are that this is the final game that I’ll coach. This has been a wonderful run.”

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