With twenty five games remaining, the Lakers still have time to put this season back together. Up to now they have chosen to take a calm, measured approach to this season’s ups-and-downs; leaving those on the outside to react to the storm that may or may not result in this team failing to make the Finals for a fourth time in four years.
Why aren’t the Lakers worried?
It’s because they know something that other teams do not; that behind the curtain there remains a simple explanation why this team has not yet hit the panic button. Last season’s team finished the season 16-12 and the same cries of the sky falling filled the airwaves, websites and blog sites then as they do now. That team took its bumps and bruises in the playoffs, but when the buzzer sounded at the end of Game 7 they were the only one’s standing.
Championship malaise is nothing new (even though it seems as if this team is taking it to new heights) and no one knows this more than the Lakers’ own Wizard of Oz, Phil Jackson. Winning three titles in a row is not easy. It has only been done a handful of times and only by the best teams in history. They say team’s take on the personality of its coach which explains the zen-like, “what, me worry?” attitude the Lakers have adopted this season.
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register captured this sentiment perfectly when he wrote, “if Phil Jackson is not trying, why should his team?”
Put simply, Phil Jackson is not trying yet…and when the best mind in basketball scoffs at the idea that a game in Milwaukee or Cleveland, in the middle of winter matters…well, you can pretty well imagine how his team will follow suit.
More important to Jackson than playing the right way in December or January, is playing the right way in May and June. The season is long and so Jackson often chooses to save his voice for when his players will hear it most. As Jackson’s father (a small-town minister) taught him, you only have about five years or so before you have to move on…before the flock is no longer stirred by the same old speeches and the same old voice.
This is the sixth season of Jackson’s second stint with the Lakers. He knows his team has what it takes, and when asked recently about the need for a trade or coaching shake up, Jackson confidently replied that he would still put this group up against any team in the league in a seven game series.
Quiet confidence exudes from Jackson. He knows, better than any, when to put the pedal to the metal. Watch an Orlando Magic game the next chance you get. Do you think that Stan Van Gundy’s sideline tirades carry the same weight in December that they do in May? Do you think his players still hear his voice?