Today marked the beginning of the end for legendary coach Phil Jackson. Sitting down with the media for the first time in months, Jackson discussed the past, the future, and most importantly, the present.
While all of the NBA knows this will be Jackson’s last season on the Lakers’ sideline, they also know he isn’t in it for a farewell tour. There is no doubt in Jackson’s mind, or that of the basketball world, that he is in it to win it in 2011.
Amongst some of the topics discussed during today’s somewhat lengthy presser were the health status of Andrew Bynum, the future of the Lakers coaching position, and the Miami Heat.
When discussing Bynum, Jackson was clear that the Lakers’ center had the coaching staff’s blessing when delaying his surgery to visit South Africa for the World Cup. He also stated that he was hopeful about the health status of Lakers’ reserve, Luke Walton, but not confident.
Jackson also discussed the changes in the Lakers roster, which features a much higher turnover than it did a season ago. After the Lakers championship victory in 2009, the only new addition to the team was forward Ron Artest. Going into the 2010-2011 season the Lakers feature five new players, but Jackson isn’t concerned;
“We have a great group of core players that really know how to play together.”
The conversation eventually turned to the biggest story of the off-season in the NBA, the Miami Heat. With that legendary Phil Jackson smirk, the 11-time world champion discussed the combining of forces down in South Beach, and the man who made it all happen, former Lakers’ coach Pat Riley.
“A lot of people have taken shots at Miami. They’re fair game. Players obviously colluded (to play in Miami).”
When it came to conversation concerning Pat Riley, Jackson used an argument that he is probably very familiar with, stating that Riley seems to find himself in ‘these situations’ quite frequently. Unless you’ve been living on the moon since 1991, you know that Jackson’s critics always cite his talented teams as the reason for his success.
However, it seems as if Jackson isn’t looking too far ahead, and knows the danger of overlooking the entire Western Conference. While many people are biding their time until June when a potential Lakers-Heat clash would take over the sporting world, Jackson cautions everyone on the somewhat diminishing Western Conference;
“Teams in the West ascend and descend (such as) Oklahoma City and San Antonio. (There are) rebuilding teams in Dallas, and Houston (may provide trouble) with Yao (Ming) back at center.”
If there is one thing Lakers fans can take solace in, it’s that Jackson already seems to be in mid-season form. From his comments yesterday concerning the Heat, to his May-style beard, Jackson seems primed to four-peat his three-peat, something that will very likely never happen again.