Lakers handling of Phil Jackson, coaching search a jumbled mess

40 Comments

You can make a good case why not to hire Phil Jackson as the Lakers coach right now — maybe he wanted too much money, or he wanted too much control over the roster, or the triangle offense was not a good mid-season replacement for the Lakers (it is too hard to pick up on the fly), or the idea he didn’t want to travel to all road games (something both sides deny now, even though Jackson suggested it last time he was with the Lakers).

You can make a case that Mike D’Antoni can win in Los Angeles.

But the Lakers handled it all with what felt like knee-jerk reactions (as they did the Mike Brown firing) — the Lakers reportedly told Jackson he could have the job if he wanted it and Monday he was going to decide. Then Sunday night they pulled the rug out from under him and chose D’Antoni to be the coach, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA.com.

There are a whole lot of reasons being thrown around as to why but the abrupt shift but they still all show an erratic and unsteady ownership hand at the helm.

You don’t tell someone the job is theirs if they want it to just change your mind. (It wasn’t just Jackson who got that impression, both D’Antoni and Mike Dunleavy, the other phone interview, got that impression.) You don’t go that far down the road with Jackson — and watch the Lakers fan base get excited about him to the point of “we want Phil” chants at Lakers games — only to pull the rug out from under him. Because you should have known he would ask for a lot, especially if he thought he had leverage. And clearly he thought that. And you had to know he was the fans’ choice.

There were some around the Lakers who were spinning Sunday night into Monday morning that Jackson demanded too much money plus had discussed not traveling with the team to all the road games. From the Los Angeles Times:

Jackson was the overwhelming favorite to return to the Lakers until they heard his informal demands, which included a stake in team ownership, according to a person familiar with the situation.

“He was asking for the moon,” said the person, who also declined to be identified because they are not authorized to discuss the situation.

The next day both sides — Jackson’s and the Lakers — denied this was the case. Both said there had not been much real negotiation. Maybe yes, maybe no. Certainly Jackson has long wanted the control of the team and has said in the past he wanted to lessen his travel (he was weary of the grind of being an NBA coach).

This much we know — Jackson’s agent was set to sit down with the Lakers Monday and negotiate and if a deal could be struck Jackson was expected to accept.

If you are the Lakers, why go through all the first dancing with Jackson, telling him he can have the job then saying before the real negotiating session he was asking for too much?

Because you really wanted D’Antoni. Whether you knew it all along or came to that decision through the process, the Lakers figured out they wanted D’Antoni.

And there are logical reasons to do that — the triangle offense is not something you can throw together mid-season, especially without Dwight Howard and Steve Nash knowing how to run it, for one. Money is another.

But this was not handled well.

With Mike Brown, there is nothing the Lakers management could have learned in five injury-filled, modified-rotations games that they didn’t feel in their guy in July. If Brown wasn’t the guy, they should have realized it and moved on much sooner than they did.

Same with Jackson — you knew he would cost an arm and a leg before you picked up the phone, you knew the triangle offense would be hard to pickup in-season before you called him. So why go way down that road and make him a fan favorite before you kill it?

The Lakers don’t feel like the steady ship they once did.

Steven Adams says Thunder late-game struggles on him, not Westbrook/George/Anthony

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the first half of games this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 91.7 points per 100 possessions. In those first 24 minutes, the Thunder are outscoring teams by 12.7 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA (Houston is first).

However, in the fourth quarter, the Thunder defense is 18.1 points per 100 possessions worse. Their offense stagnates late in games with a lot of “you take a turn and then it’s my turn” isolation between Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder have nine losses this season, and OKC lost double-digit leads in six of those. Monday night it was a 19-point lead against New Orleans where the Pelicans — without DeMarcus Cousins — came back to win 114-107.

There’s a lot of blame and finger-pointing going on in Oklahoma City, but Steven Adams said less of that should be at the three stars and more of it should be at him. Via Royce Young at ESPN:

“Mainly me, to be honest (should be blamed). Because the play itself you have to execute it properly and it has to be legit down to the t. I screwed up my feet on a couple of them in terms of spacing. … Everyone plays a part in the plight so you can say yeah the shot doesn’t go in which sucks. But to get them that shot I didn’t help them.”

Adams can take on a little of the blame, but this is a team thing right now — everyone has earned some blame. Billy Donovan as coach, role players like Andre Roberson or Patrick Patterson who have not lived up to expectations this season, and yes Westbrook/George/Anthony have earned some blame, too. It’s a little bit of everything.

There’s also time for the Thunder to figure it out, but they are on the clock as this is a one-year experiment in Oklahoma City (no way they pay the whopping tax coming next season to keep all three stars and Adams, no matter what ownership says publicly).

C.J. McCollum: I told Evan Fournier during altercation ‘ you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat’

AP Photo/Steve Dykes
4 Comments

C.J. McCollum blew kisses at Evan Fournier when they got into a confrontation during the Trail Blazers’ win over the Magic last week:

But apparently the incident was even better than that!

McCollum on The Flagrant Two podcast, as transcribed by Colin Ward-Henninger of CBSSports.com:

“I just felt like he disrespected me by putting his hands on me,” McCollum said. “Obviously, I’m not trying to get any fines or anything of that nature and I told him he was sweet. He’s French, and I said that, ‘you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat.’ “

Did McCollum actually say that in the moment, or did he come up with the line after the fact? I want the former to be true, so I choose to believe it.

Report: Nuggets Paul Millsap out three months due to wrist surgery

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There were big sighs of relief in Denver when Paul Millsaps’ X-rays on his injured wrist came back negative. There were fears of a fracture suffered against the Lakers last weekend, but word from the team is it was just a sprain. He sat out the game against the Kings, but the timeline for his return was not expected to be long.

Except it has turned out to be a little more than a simple sprain. From Sham Charania of Yahoo and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Millsap — who signed a three-year, $90 million contract with Denver over the summer, after spending seven seasons with the Jazz and Hawks — is averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. More importantly, he has been key to Denver’s defense going from one of the NBA’s worst to the middle of the pack this season. He’s started the season getting a handful fewer shots a game then he did in Atlanta last season, and Millsap was slightly less efficient, but like the team as a whole he seemed to be finding a groove and looked better during the recent streak when Denver won 4-of-5. He and the Nuggets were figuring out how to play together.

The Nuggets have been 4.5 points per 100 possessions better when Millsap has been on the court this season, and that will not be easy to replace.

While Kenneth Faried got the start with Millsap out last game, it was Trey Lyles who stepped up — and who Denver needs to step up with Millsap out. Others will have to step up with some defense while he is out.

LaVar Ball on Luke Walton: “They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son.”

Getty Images
9 Comments

Luke Walton is trying to create a professional environment around his young Lakers’ core. One where they expect the players to put in extra work without being told they have to, one where the coaches guide the development, but it’s ultimately the player in charge of his own course. Basically, Walton is treating his young players like adults and is asking them to respond to it like professional adults. It’s what he’s seen Steve Kerr do in Golden State and it works. It’s how Gregg Popovich has created a dynasty in San Antonio.

LaVar Ball sees the world very differently. He’s old school, from the “do as I say” mold.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that after the Lakers’ ugly loss last Friday to the Suns, the Lakers media spoke to LaVar Ball about his son’s play and Ball took a shot at the Lakers’ coach. Here are the quotes, via Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

“They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son. I know how to coach him,” LaVar Ball said. “I tell him to go get the victory. Stop messing around.”

Does he have a problem with coach Luke Walton?

“No, I have a problem with losing,” Ball responded.

I have multiple thoughts here, which means bullet points.

• I am breaking my own rule with this post, which is “don’t cover LaVar Ball, he’s just meaningless click bait.” I debated the point, but I think there is a legitimate basketball reason to cover this post (keep reading).

• Things Luke Walton cares more about than what LaVar Ball thinks of his coaching style: How much extra guacamole costs at Chipotle; if Netflix has “Golden Girls” to stream; what shoes Lakers’ sideline reporter Mike Trudell is wearing during postgame interviews; which Van Halen album “Dance the Night Away” is on; which show won the 1974 Tony for Best Musical.

Lonzo Ball‘s struggles with his shot this season — 31.3 percent overall, and he is struggling from three and around the rim — are well documented. It’s clear he is in his own head about it at this point. What can keep him there longer is conflicting advice from his father and his coach. So far, Lonzo seems to be siding with the coaching staff, for example, he credited assistant coach Brian Shaw for telling him to rebound more aggressively, then push the ball himself. LaVar will want to take credit for that, too. Lonzo needs to listen to his coaches, take his father’s advice for what it’s worth, and find his path.

• LaVar is lucky that the level-headed, mature-for-his-age, hard-working Lonzo was his oldest son. Just from what I see on the outside, not sure either of the other two Ball children could have handled this scrutiny nearly as well.

• Luke Walton is working to create something sustainable with the Lakers, they are not going to let anything (or anyone) bump them off that path.