Phil Jackson plays the pot calling kettle black


In 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers completed one of the most one-sided trades in the history of the league, sending Kwame Brown and what was, at that point, complete unknown Marc Gasol to the Memphis Grizzlies (along with Javaris Crittenton…yeah) for franchise player Pau Gasol. Coaches and league personnel were flabbergasted at the questionable nature of the trade between the Lakers and the team formerly managed by Jerry West, who you may recall was a Lakers’ great (there is no known connection with West in the deal, but it’s interesting nonetheless).

But in a league with the cap structure the NBA has, you’re going to see moves which are financially motivated in which the players the worse team receives are completely irrelevant. It would appear, though, that the Lakers’ head coach isn’t a big fan when it isn’t his team that gets a game-changing component.

In an interview with FanHouse’s Chris Tommasson, Phil Jackson called the “loophole” which is allowing Zydrunas Ilgauskas to re-sign with the team he’s been with his entire career a ‘sham’ and ‘charades.’

“It’s a sham of sorts to make that kind of trade. You’re not really
trading a player. You’re just trading a money situation. It’s a sham,
and I think it’s a disrespect for the league and the players to be
involved in this type of a thing.”

Okay, Phil. Got it. It’s totally fine for your team to take advantage of teams needing to clear cap space, but not anyone else. Got it.

It’s still difficult to see what the problem is with this setup. Ilgauskas has been with Cleveland his whole career, and gets to return. We have a contender that got stronger. The Wizards saved a ton of money and have the ability to restart their franchise and maybe build towards contention. This trade was not bad for the league. It was only bad for those who are competing with Cleveland for a championship. And they’re not really in a position to be objective, just as Greg Popovich wasn’t with the Gasol trade.

Maybe Jackson should focus more on pulling the lifeless corpse of Derek Fisher into something resembling a point guard in time for the playoffs.

UPDATE: Apparently I did a piss poor job of explaining things, so let’s take another crack at this. The Gasol trade and the Ilgauskas trade were quite clearly different because Ilgauskas came back to the Cavs, whereas Kwame Brown, vital component that he is, did not. The difference there is assumed.

But what Jackson is complaining about is not the loophole. He’s complaining about “just trading a money situation.” Which is precisely why the Memphis trade went through. At the time, Marc Gasol was nothing more than a throw-in. The major component was cap space for the Grizzlies. And further more, if it benefited the Lakers to do a trade of this type, they would do it, just the same as Doc Rivers, Greg Popovich, or any team in the league would.

The point is not that the trades were identical in function, but in formula.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.