What Phil Jackson did as a coach better than any coach ever was get players to believe in their roles. Not simply just know, but fully and totally believe in that role and its place in the team dynamic. He often did it by guidance and letting the players discover this for themselves — the lessons you learn that way rather than have explained to you stick.
If you think that is easy, look at the track records of other coaches who have won titles and tried to win multiple with the same group.
So it should be no shock that when Jackson went on ESPNRadio in Chicago and was asked about these Lakers, he talked in terms of blending Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant together. Thanks to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times for the transcription.
“It’s finding a role that each player can move towards and be comfortable in,” Jackson said. “I think that’s how you want to feel. You want Steve to have the ability to have the ball with confidence that he is doing the right thing and feeling like he can run the team and getting the ball to Kobe in critical situations is important because that’s what his best role is standing out in the moments of crisis or the moments that are critical. And the inclusion that you have to have to make Howard feel a part of it. So all those guys have to find a little role….
“(Nash) is a guy that can kinda make it easier for Howard to be a player inside,” Jackson said. “As Pau can move around in the post and move up to the high post and he can be an outside defender that can help out in a variety of screen-roll activities that maybe Howard might get himself in foul trouble having to defend all the time. So they’ll be able to do a lot of things with a more mobile and quicker Pau Gasol. This is a team that you have to find an offense that is going to work and include everybody because Kobe dominates the ball and Steve Nash dominates the ball.”
What Jackson is pointing out will be one of the keys for the Lakers this season — Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are two of the best pick-and-roll defending big men in the game and that is going to make it tough on other teams that live and die by that play.
If Phil Jackson were in charge of this team, is there any doubt they would blend together?
Can Mike Brown do that? If this were a younger Lakers team I’d be more concerned, but with the veterans they have I think the Lakers will come together. They will figure out how to work the hybrid Princeton offense and new defensive sets.
Maybe the best question after the way Brown leaned on Kobe and Gasol last season is if he cannot wear them out during the regular season.