Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw

Shaw’s account of leaving L.A. should make Lakers fans nervous


Kobe Bryant and most Lakers fans may not have liked it, but Brian Shaw never really stood a chance to become the Lakers next head coach. Shaw was qualified, and a top Lakers assistant, but his candidacy was doomed because he implied more of the same and Jim Buss wanted to put his stamp on the organization. Mike Brown was a radical departure, that’s what the powers that be wanted.

It’s not a bad thing — Mike Brown can coach. This team can win with him.

However, the vibe around the change and how it all went down should make Lakers fans nervous about the future.

Shaw said that even within the Lakers organization he needed to distance himself from Jackson — the guy who won the franchise five rings — to have a better chance to get the job. It’s old issues and family dynamics that could hurt the franchise in the future. That was the core of Shaw’s message when he opened up to Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thompson

“Phil let me know going into the interview [with the Lakers] for me to almost disassociate myself from him, that anything that I said about him or the triangle system would hurt me because of his lack of relationship with Jimmy Buss,” Shaw said. “So when I did interview, that was the point that I tried to make about the fact that I had played for Phil only my last four years, and that I played for all of these other coaches.”

“There were some things that were said that I won’t really get into,” Shaw said. “It was kind of bashing Phil Jackson, that I just refused to just sit and listen to. And that’s when I said, ‘Hey, I love Phil Jackson. I appreciate everything that we’ve all been able to accomplish under him. We’ve all prospered since he’s been the coach here….

“It was more from Jimmy Buss just doubting some of the decisions he made in terms of how he was handling and running the team and coaching the team on the sidelines, and sitting down instead of getting up. People look at coaches and want them to pace up and down the sidelines and bark instructions to the guys. That’s not Phil’s demeanor. That was viewed as a negative in my estimation — but it won him five championships with the Lakers and six with the Bulls, and that was his coaching style when he won, so why was that not acceptable now?”

How much Jackson yelled at the officials was a concern? Really?

Understand the dynamic at play here. The first time Phil Jackson left the Lakers, it was Jim Buss who had pushed hard for Rudy Tomjanovich to take over as coach. That backfired and was a disaster that left Frank Hamblen — a smart man who was not suited for the big chair — in charge. Combine that with the unpopular trade of Shaquille O’Neal before that season and you pissed off Lakers season ticket holders. Really pissed off. The Lakers held a season ticket holders meeting during that season and sent Mitch Kupchak out as the sacrificial lamb, when neither the Shaq trade nor the Rudy T. hire were his call.

Then Jeanie Buss — the business smart daughter of Jerry who is well respected by other NBA owners because she gets it — rides to the rescue bringing back boyfriend Phil Jackson. It was an expensive pill but bringing him back calmed season ticket holders down. It was worth the money. Eventually, it led to two more rings.

But he was not Jim Buss’ guy. So when it came time to make a change Jim put his stamp on the organization. Not only is Jackson gone, Shaw never had a chance. But it goes deeper than that — 25-year Laker and assistant GM Ronnie Lester is gone. Rudy Garciduenas, the equipment manager since the Showtime era, is gone. Scouts are gone. Anyone considered a Jackson guy is gone.

Loyalty and tradition seemed to be gone, too. That’s what should make Lakers fans nervous. The disrespect of all things Phil Jackson — a guy who won the franchise five rings and made the Buss family much more rich — should make Lakers fans nervous.

I’m undecided on Jim Buss right now. The son of longtime owner Jerry Buss he has made some good calls we know of. For example, pushing to draft Andrew Bynum. But there are other questions now if the young Buss can be the steady hand that his father was. Jerry Buss was good at letting the basketball people make most of the basketball decisions and only stepping in on the biggest issues. Can Jim do that?

Hard to say, but if the franchise is going to continue it’s run of success, it comes down to Buss making mature decisions. And after the Shaw incident, Lakers fans should be a little nervous wondering if that will happen.

Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant “at peace” with decision to retire after season

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LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant was never going to go quietly into that good night. He would rage, rage against the dying of the light — and torn Achilles, knee ligaments, shoulders, and everything else holding him back.

But now, the end is near, and Kobe will face the final curtain at the end of this season. And he is at peace with it, if you ask his coach.

“It was so matter of fact, and he was so at peace with (the decision),” Lakers’ coach Byron Scott said of when Kobe told him this season would be it. “After I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it or anything, it was like ‘I’m announcing I’m retiring’ and just kind of went on from there.”

Bryant told Scott before anyone else in the Lakers’ organization, and told him sometime Saturday (when the Lakers played and lost in Portland).

“I said, ‘what?’ He just told me at a very awkward time; we started laughing about it,” Scott said. “He said ‘you looked like you were saying ‘what they hell are you talking about’ but it just caught me off guard.”

It’s been an ugly season for Kobe, his body can no longer do what he expects of it — he can’t get the separation, the lift needed for his shoots. He was shooting 31.1 percent on the season going into Sunday’s game against Indiana, and he started 1-of-11 from the floor Sunday night. Yet he kept gunning.

“I gave up hoping he would change his approach 15, 18 years ago,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “He is what he is. And I’m thankful for it.”

Kupchak added hoped this decision would ease the pressure on Bryant.

“I would hope that he has more fun, and appears less frustrated, and also gets more appreciation,” Kupchak said. “He’ll get it at home, but on the road too, because people will have to recognize this is his last year and they are watching one of the all-time greats.”

Kobe got plenty of appreciation from Lakers’ fans on Sunday night with a massive ovation when he was introduced. Kobe had wanted to avoid a Derek Jeter style farewell tour, but with that announcement and the Lakers playing 13-of-17 on the road in December you can bet there will be some of that.

“One of the best ever to play the game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said pregame. “I don’t know if there’s any one moment, just throughout the course of his career you didn’t want him to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, period. Because you knew he was going to beat you.”

No doubt Kobe goes down as one of the game’s all-time greats — five-time NBA champion, MVP, two Finals MVP’s, 17 All-Star Games, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg — but what Scott ultimately wants is Bryant to leave the game on his terms.

“What I want from Kobe is basically his last game to be able to walk off the court, wave to the fans, and be able to go into the locker room standing up,” Scott said.


Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this has been coming for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck. All that surrounded him was talk of his play and speculation about the future he didn’t want.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Ad we’ll all be watching for those flashes of vintage Bryant we have hoped to see more of this season.