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Phil Jackson picked a strange time to get upset

We're very upset about our performance tonight. We're embarrassed about what we did. That's it.

Four games in five nights.  It gets you almost every time.  Basketball is a tough game, and participating in a professional basketball contest four times in 120 hours is just tough sledding.  It leads to fatigue, which in turn leads to sloppiness, poor effort, and a tendency to give up.  And when you are hitting double digits in terms of the number of years you've been doing this job, those challenges keep getting tougher.

I mean, just think about it.  All the game planning. All the team meetings.  All the shoot arounds. All the layup lines. All that getting up from your fancy high chair.  All those piercing high-pitched whistles.  All the timeouts.  All the post game questions.  It's exhausting just to think about.  And its enough to make you want to just skip out on the last bit of your duties at the end of a rough night.

Wait, you didn't think I was talking about the players wearing that Laker uniform, did you?

Did you buy it when Phil Jackson delivered his 24 word press conference?  Did you feel his anger?  Did you believe that he was so overcome with frustration, so upset by his team's performance, that he was unwilling or unable to analyze that performance with a level head?  Not me.  I saw a coach doing the exact same thing his players just did.  He took the night off.  He distracted the media with signs of discord and supreme frustration so that they wouldn't pay so much attention to the fact that he treated his coaching due diligence with about as much thoroughness as a two year old treats the lines in his coloring book. 

I'm not saying it's OK that the Los Angeles Lakers got blown out by the Charlotte Bobcats last night, losing 109-89 in a game that wasn't as close as the final score.  I'm not saying their effort level was acceptable.  I'm not excusing them because there were certain circumstances that foretold of this type of contest.  The Laker players and coaches should be embarrassed by their performance in last night's game. But if you expect me to believe that last night's result was the one that finally caused coach Phil to boil over, you might as well try to convince me of the existence of UFOs, or Sasquatch.

It's not like this was the worst loss of the season.  OK, technically the 20 point margin of victory makes it the biggest, but I find the loss to be a distant third in terms of embarrassment.  Even if you ignore big losses to the Heat, Spurs and Celtics (who are, after all, pretty good teams), what about the loss to Milwaukee on December 21st?  They lost by 19 to the Milwaukee Bucks, who are worse than Charlotte, a team that was without two of its top four players, and they did so at home in Staples Center.  Or how about the 19 point loss to Memphis, just a couple weeks later.  Sure, the Grizzlies have proven to be a halfway decent team, but the Lakers were in the middle of a three game homestand, and fresh off losing three of five games (with all losses by double digits).  That game wasn't a matter of complacency, because the Lakers didn't even earn what little right exists to be complacent, and still they were hustled out of the gym.

Here's a selection of PJ's quotes from those two previous contests:

I just don't think we were strong, We looked weak out there physically.

Guys are doing things one-on-one in the offense instead of letting the offense work for them and making it much easier, They're making the game too hard.

I'll just say they came out tonight and got outworked by a team that played [Saturday] night, lost in Utah, had to fly back in here for a ballgame, I think we took for granted the fact that we've been beaten in Memphis and everybody thought we were going to come out here and play better and no one took responsibility on themselves to play better

One of the things about having a day off with this team is that they lose focus, They had a day off [Saturday], and I'll learn better from that

There are some familiar themes, but its hardly Sodom and Gomorrah talk.  Threatening to give less days off doesn't exactly draw a parallel with 40 straight days and nights of torrential downpour.  No, this is careful, level-headed, thorough analysis of a team that is struggling to find meaning in a regular season they don't much care about.  This is a coach voicing possible ideas as to how to fix the problems that beset his team.

Contrast that to last night's dud.  I'm not a big fan of excuses, but there were some mitigating circumstances that could have predicted the result of the contest.  The whole four games in five nights thing, the fact that the Lakers looked sluggish and fatigued in the previous game, which just so happened to be the previous day.  I'm no expert, but when you look tired on the first game of a back-to-back set, it doesn't usually bode well for the second game.  And the one guy you can count on to at least bring the effort was sick.  Phil Jackson takes dumps that have more basketball knowledge than I will ever have, and yet I wrote a preview that all but predicted the result of last night's contest.  It doesn't make it any better, or reduce the very sour taste in our mouths as to how obvious the Lakers were in giving up, but it didn't take a basketball genius to see this one coming.  And this is the contest that makes Phil break out the fire and brimstone?  In the words of Michelle Tanner, Oh Puh-leeze!

No, I think Phil saw his team get blown out again, get out-worked again, look tired and old and lethargic again, and wanted no part of the same old song and dance with the media as a result.  He knew he'd get the same kind of questions that Andrew Bynum did, knew that everyone would be looking for different answers to the same questions that he answered a couple months back, and decided he wanted no part.  So he threw the media a bone with some angry comments, allowed them to spin stories of team discord and paint big picture problems, and PJ lived to fight another day.  In the war that is the regular season, this was coach Phil's hasty retreat, not his defiant stand.

I'm not criticizing him.  If anyone has earned the right to take a night off from dealing with the questions of lesser basketball mortals, Phil Jackson has earned that right.  I'm simply pointing out that last night's performance was just that on Phil's part, a performance.  And he used it to sweep under the rug the fact that, for one night, he didn't particularly feel like doing his job, just like the players he oversees.  Everyone has nights, or days, like that.  It's part of being human.  I, for one, am totally OK with it.  Just don't expect me to buy into it.  I learned a valuable lesson after I bought that beach front property in Arizona.

Not everything should be taken seriously.

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