As Phil Jackson sat out back of his laid-back Montana summer retreat during an interview with Andrea Kremer of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in mid-June, Jackson revealed his distaste for the way the game in which he had dominated for so many years as a coach, has evolved:
Watching the NBA–not that easy for me. There’s very little passing offense that goes into the NBA where everything’s done off the dribble, where everything’s a screen-roll to a screen-roll to a screen-roll; so the innovation is very limited in what’s going on.
Similarly, he commented on the team in which he most recently coached–the Los Angeles Lakers–and their offensive troubles as well:
Jim [Buss] saw Andrew as a kid and thought Bynum was going to be a great pick for our team. But in the process he’s wanted to have Andrew to have a bigger and bigger role, and I think he’s hired his coach to have Andrew have a bigger and bigger role. And that kind of disjointed the symmetry of what the Lakers were really about.
Andrew is an All-Star Center, he did a wonderful job. But what happened was it took Pau out of his game and it took the team away from some of their game. They changed the style dramatically.
Obviously, with Andrew Bynum gone, that changes everything. However, under Mike Brown’s offense last season, newly acquired All-Star center Dwight Howard would’ve likely had just as large, or an even larger role than Andrew Bynum.
Fast-forward to early July, and apparently Kobe Bryant–who is perpetually searching for an edge or advantage over his opponents–shared his former coach’s sentiments. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Bryant brought up the idea of implementing a system similar in principle to the triangle offense to head coach Mike Brown: the Princeton offense.
The Princeton got it’s name, not surprisingly, from Princeton University, where Pete Carril implemented and perfected it on his basketball teams.
Anyway, apparently Mike Brown was intrigued, and the two (Bryant and Brown) sat down with former NBA head coach Eddie Jordan in Las Vegas during Team USA’s training camp. Jordan knows the Princeton offense–an offense predicated on constant motion, passing, back-door cuts, and disciplined teamwork–as well as anybody at the professional level.
All of this took place before the Lakers brought in future Hall-of-Fame point guard Steve Nash, but that didn’t dissuade Bryant’s high praise for the complex offense as Kobe told Yahoo! Sports:
It’s a great offense. It’s exactly what we need. It takes us back to being able to play by making reads and reacting to defenses. It takes a great deal of communication, but that’s where we’re at our best: Reading and reacting as opposed to just coming down and calling sets. Calling sets make you vulnerable.
There’s so many threats, so many options, it’s very tough to defend. Against the type of defenses that teams play nowadays, they load up on one side and are constantly coming with help from the weak side. The Princeton offense makes it very, very tough to lock in on one particular player.
From my experience, those types of principles – ball movement, changing sides on the floor, everybody being involved – those are championship principles. That’s championship DNA.
Kobe had one player in mind particularly when it came to this offense–Pau Gasol, as he continued to express his fascination with the Princeton:
Steve is going to make it easier for Pau, because he’s an incredible distributor, but the system is perfect for [Gasol]. His ability to pass the ball, to make plays from the high post–to shoot–is the perfect system for him.
I’m excited for Pau because this is right in his wheelhouse.
Perhaps this is why Kobe continues to declare that Pau Gasol is here to stay as long as the Black Mamba is in a Lakers uniform.
Similarly, Bryant likely realizes that he can no longer keep up with the young superstars of the league on a daily basis, but he believes he can out-think them as he has one of the highest–if not the highest—basketball IQs in the league today.
The Princeton offense, coincidentally, is a slow-developing offense that is used by teams to counter opposing teams that have faster, more athletic players; a similar situation in which these aging Lakers often find themselves in (although the addition of Howard changes that a bit).
Upon Quin Snyder’s departure from the Lakers’ bench as an assistant coach, it appears as though the Lakers are extremely interested in bringing Eddie Jordan aboard as an offensive coordinator of sorts. In all likelihood, Eddie Jordan will be on the sidelines along with Mike Brown come late October, implementing the Princeton offense.
However, with Steve Nash–and now Dwight Howard–set to debut as Lakers this fall, is this the correct offense?
Next: The Princeton Review