Phil Jackson Interview
The 2005-06 NBA season starts soon. Here's what Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said about his team and the upcoming season on a recent conference call:
Q: Discuss the preseason and look toward the regular season.
Phil Jackson: We started off in Hawaii. Obviously we don’t have a mainland training camp, but we still don’t get dispensation for having it overseas and we still have to start on the same date even though we’ve been petitioning the NBA to give us a couple days jump because of the travel. We were there for 10 days, had two ball games versus the Golden State Warriors. If you go back to last Thursday that’s the day we had to miss practice because of your trip. One of the reasons we petitioned the league about being able to start practice a little bit early. So I feel a little bit behind the gun as a coach. With the new system and the multiple numbers of new players playing together we know that we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and it’s going to be a slow beginning for the ball club. That’s not unusual for teams that I have been able to coach in the past. I do anticipate that we’ll find our stride in the middle of the month of November and start to play with the kind of fluid action and reactions that this type of offensive system takes. Joining the competitive level we’ve started camp without a starting guard position opposite Kobe Bryant and we’ve had to wend our way through a number of players to try to find a starter. And we’ve started a number of different players at the positions in the three exhibition games we’ve had so far. Been one injury, Luke Walton, who’s been out for a while, also our first round draft pick, he had a minor injury that has held him out of practice, Andrew Bynum, so we’ve had a couple of setbacks, but all in all we’re not doing too bad.
Q: What are you going to do with Lamar Odom and who do you compare him to once he adapts his game to what you want?
Jackson: Well I asked Scottie Pippen to go over to Hawaii as a special assistant and Scottie particularly helped the Chicago Bulls in the ’90 season when he moved from the forward to a guard position and allowed Michael Jordan to move from a guard to a wing where he could be a better attack player out of the triangle offense. We’re trying to do the same thing here with Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant so Kobe doesn’t have to wear himself down being a playmaking guard, an organizing guard, and a lead guard in this offense. It will allow Lamar with his guard skills to create this same type of offensive attack. Lamar has had some progress. He’s had nights where he looks like he’s a little bit confused out there, but we think that once he gravitates and embraces the system and understands it, he’s going to be a real facilitator for our offensive system. And I think he and Kobe can combine in a way that can be very unique.
Q: Do you think players have become more loose with their attire over the years?
Jackson: I think that we’ve noticed in a number of playoff situations when full attention on the NBA its stars, reaches a pinnacle when guys step onto that podium with a doo-rag on and sunglasses and their child sitting on their lap. It sends out an image that represents, you know, I don’t know, prison garb or thuggery or whatever it is…smells of defiance in a way. And I think that there’s a code that’s necessary and we see hockey in a much different light. Their players are very much dressed, usually have sport coats on, a little bit more respectful and appealing to an audience. Well, we’ve taken our audience for granted for a long time. Maybe it’s time we do pay attention to our paying customers and people that are appealing. We’re appealing to filling these boxes and seats.
Q: Have you seen Kobe mature in training camp? Could he have an MVP-type of season?
Jackson: I think first of all for us to have an MVP or for Kobe to have an MVP type of season, he’d have to have a team that would be a top echelon team. I don’t know if we’re ready to reach to the heights of that as a basketball club. I don’t know or I can’t envision it at this particular time in the middle of training camp with two weeks remaining before the regular season begins. But I think that he can have that type of a season. He’s that type of a player. He has matured. He is trying to use his energy for the optimum benefit of the ball club. He’s leading the team and putting pressure on them in a way in which that really lets them know during the daily practice that we’ve got to make strides forward in a way that is mature. The games that he’s played he’s also tried to help his teammates find a way to figure out the system in a most ease and uncomplicated way. I see him coming many times to this work arena two to three hours ahead of practice, doing the therapy and doing the extra work that it takes to reach that kind of level and know that this is something that Kobe really wants to regain the top echelon as the number one player or the best player when there were accolades that you can give a player of his stature. I think being named Third Team All-NBA was a slap in the face for Kobe.
Q: Can you talk about the differences between the East and West and if they have become more equal over the past couple of years?
Jackson: I think that in the turn of the century in the early years following the demise of the Chicago Bulls, we saw a number of the top post players in the East end up in obviously in the Western Conference. It changed the style of ball that was being played in the East. You had more screen, more open roll, more open games. Less post up activity. Then in the last three years or so, the advent of Jermaine O’Neal coming from Portland to Indiana and the emergence of some young players in the East and also the return to the East of Shaquille O’Neal. Now the balance is starting to shift a little bit. Obviously Detroit getting Rasheed Wallace to combine with Ben Wallace as a pretty fearsome duo on defense and offense, has kind of tipped the balance again so that there’s a little more compatibility or comparability to the East and the West. I do think that the West with the style that Phoenix and Dallas played last year, that Seattle played last year, has really kept a pretty open game, a higher scoring game, which has always been the Western philosophy of basketball…to have a little more high octane game, and the East has always been a little more conservative and controlled basketball.
Q: Are you as committed to the triple-post offense as ever? If so how do you think this team will work with it?
Jackson: Your answer is positive to the first question. I’m committed to it, I’m committing these players to it. We’re trying to instruct them in how to find a comfort zone in playing in the system and how to conduct themselves. In so doing we think that it’s fundamentally sound and I think that it provides a good opportunity for everyone to have an opportunity to score, whether they take that opportunity or not. It also spaces the floor correctly and uses the defensive and rebound balance that promotes the best play that we can provide for our players on the floor…protection against runouts and defensive lapses. It’s difficult to say our progress at this time because you’re doing so much activity in a day. We were two-day of practices for six days and then obviously with games and practice prior to games, we’re really cramming a lot of stuff down the throats of the players. They’re still looking to do the right things instead of the instinctive things. That makes it difficult for players to play with the freedom that they need to play with to make things happen basketball wise at this point. They’ll go through this period for another week or two we hope. As we’ve noticed in the past, they’ll mature quickly and find a comfort zone out there in which to play in. We do put them in a box, a system box, so to speak. Give them a parameter that allows them a lot of freedom within that parameter; ask them to play within that system to help themselves and to make the game disciplined.
Q: What have you done to reverse the poor ranking last year in defensive points per game?
Jackson: Well my coaching staff, which includes Tex Winter, Kurt Rambis, Brian Shaw, Scottie Pippen, Craig Hodges and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar…I’ve collected quite a crew of guys who are discussing this. One of the older members of my staff said I have spent less time teaching the offense than defense in this preseason, which is obviously the truth. We need to make a difference in our defense to become a good team. The offense has been shunted off to halftime of practice time, and we really emphasize a lot of the time our defensive intensity and purpose. We’ve made some strides, but last night we had a game where we had over 40 foul shots against in a game. Anybody who knows basketball in the NBA, knows that anything over 25 free throws in the ball game is extending your chances and making it difficult to find the flow that you need to have offensively and you’re also creating situations where players are going to be ineligible or foul out. We have been spending an immense amount of time brining the intensity to our defense. That’s our number one priority. Bringing the cohesiveness or the team play to defense, which is also where we believe that team play magnifies itself. And trying to find a way to get big men to block shots, rebound and create the opportunities that then lead to easier baskets for us as a team.
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