Now that Mitch has given us an efficient and exciting bench, we should look further to see where the Lakers could lose something in the next couple of years if not earlier...
First name should be Phil Jackson. I am a big fan of the triangle offence. It works, and with the right roster it can go on forever. I do not doubt that Brian Shaw has some of the qualities required, but I don't see him taking the team for a long period or being has succesful (facing Doc Rivers, Miami & Orlando in the next few years, unless a big team rises from the hashes of the Western conference). Yes, we should be that confident. We have players signed for a huge period, and for as long as we win Buss is gonna pay. The organisation brings him a lot of profit, and should we stop being at the top again, it always take a while before you make it back. I started following the Lakers and basketball in general when I started playing in 1994. Jordan was back and Del Harris re-built the Lakers (a lot of credit must go to him too for our past ten years of successes; although he never took us all the way...).
Phil turned the team and mentality around. Winning rings was the only goal. We were no longer re-building, it was an era in which only dominance would be accepted. And he did it, a 3peat is always fantastic, but with Shaq and Kobe it was special (we can call Shaq anything we want now, then we ALL loved him - he was the main contributor, not Kobe). Phil turned Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum into winners (remember that Bynum is as old as a rookie). People started signing and re-signing with the Lakers announced his return this summer. Not sure this would have happened for Shaw.
Really, I think Shaw can win a title(s); and if he wasn't able to we'd move on quickly. But Phil, health allowing, can win another 4. I know the state of his health and all, but even if he coaches only Home games in four years, he'd still be smart enough to get these guys the right mentality. He does have help. Fisher and Bryant are the leaders off court of this team, and their are motivational. On the court, playing alongside Kobe will always be regarded as a priviledge, Kobe will be hard until he retires, in many many many years I hope. The talent of Bryant combined with Gasol makes this team a consistent dominant opponent. Only the Chicago Bulls of, guess who ZenMaster himself, were able to be better and completely unbeatable, even in the regular season. With the nucleus of the team, we can really handle less involvement of Phil over the next few years. Say Phil doesn't get the title how many people would prefer him to retire? No one. We know he'll try his best and we'll know it would have probably not been his fault (somehow against a better opponent, which I see as unlikely). Unless it is his health that needs it, at that point we'll be able to fully appreciate the fact that this man is/was the GREATEST COACH IN NBA HISTORY!
I know we are potentially approaching an era of super-teams with 3-4 allstars and former glories battling it out in classic encounters, but let's look at the reality. The Celtics bought themselves another year, the Heat will have to learn from the Lakers before they can reach a ring and the Magic continues to be a tragic story of what could have been and what could be... It won't be easy, but we have all the tools to do it. And the most important tool in this team is Phil Jackson. He's the one doing the choreography on the court. Deciding when a player needs rest, or a player needs a chance to explode. What the Lakers have done with Ariza and Brown has been exciting, and this extra excitement brought the team to believe that these last two titles were theirs to take. We didn't surrender to the Celtics with 3-2 down. We beat the **** out of them. They played the best Defence I've ever seen a team apply during the first half of the NBA Finals. Kobe missed a lot of shoots, but remember why that was. The rest of the team was unable to find itself in an open spot. And Kobe's job was to try and make impossible shots. His injuries probably didn't help, but the impact he had on the team throughout the season was beyond anything LeBron will ever be for his team. Kobe leads this team, this is his team, Shaw played alongside him and I am not sure Shaw would be able to tell Kobe in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to stop shooting. Phil would, he knows that's what it may take to win. Kobe is also smart enough to realise it, his rebounding was suddenly given us extra opportunities to hold the ball in defence. The rest of the team did the job. Phil realised the Celtics were 'cooked', their last six minutes resulted in a revival of a 3point warfare to the last minute, in which the Lakers continued to dominate in every sector. This was Phil's impact. Shaw needs to learn more. So even if Phil no longer wishes to continue coaching, if he was ever to get involved in any other team, he would impact them very positively. If there are any chances of him getting another job with the Lakers, let's keep him on the payroll! (perhaps some ownership stakes would interest him? He is
married dating Buss' daughter... He could run things one day...).
You can imagine a lot of things, anyway I don't see him being as important in any other role and I don't see anyone doing his job better than him. This team is built around the triangle offence. This is no offensive Show Time (sorry Byron keep learning...).
So on the whole Jackson is too good and too entangled into the Lakers success that not having him at all in our organisation would truly be a major blow. Shaw needs to step into the heir's shoes and start leading this team more often, by giving Phil a needed rest when possible. But before then at least four years of success can be harvested.
Of course Phil announced this was the last one. Of course he seemed to have favoured a retirement somewhere at the beginning of last month... But he's done it before, and he'll do it every year. This is Zen in all his aspects, taking care of his health. So I wish him the best health a man can get and a long a prosperous continuation of his Laker career until his total retirement from basketball.
Other related posts by Laker Poet The Legendary Exodus of Phil Jackson.
Or out of interest: Will Magic be in Pistons buyers' mix?