Phil Jackson talks in a Zen way about new Lakers

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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.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”

PBT Podcast: Lakers, Clippers, and Nikola Jokic as Beethoven

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Anthony Davis has played at an MVP level for weeks now, outdueling even Giannis Antetokounmpo recently in a Lakers’ win. LeBron James is still a force at age 37, Russell Westbrook has accepted the role and has been a game-changer as a sixth man, and the Lakers’ role players are hitting their 3-pointers.

It’s been an impressive run, but can the Lakers keep it up and be a genuine threat in the West? Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and I discuss all that, plus whether the now-healthy Clippers can find a groove and become a threat.

In Corey’s Jukebox he dances a little salsa and explains how Nikola Jokic is like Beethoven. Then there is talk of the Kyle Kuzma trade rumors, and what exactly are the long-term plans in Washington.

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