COLUMN: Phil Jackson non-return to Lakers means. . .

CREDIT: Associated Press via L.A. Times

So what to make of the Los Angeles Lakers’ situation?

Bottom line, there really is no bottom line. Critical analysis is all fine and well yet nonetheless now and forever flawed when predicting the future.

But there is one undeniable truth, and it would have lasted, oh, for 30 seconds or so.

Longtime Los Angeles Lakers P.A. announcer Lawrence Tanter dutifully would have intoned with his trademark somberness a certain name right before the players were introduced, and Staples Center – along with the Hollywood A-listers seated at courtside and throughout the lower bowl – would have gone absolutely batty.

That’s right. Phil Jackson.

The Zen Master returns. The fired Mike Brown was just a bad dream. He never happened. Our Dear Leader is back. He of the five NBA championships in two different stints as Lakers coach, as well as six with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Yeah, quite the warm-fuzzies moment, one that was not to be.

The Lakers – personified by Jerry Buss and not son Jimmy and not GM Mitch Kupchak – instead went with Mike D’Antoni after meeting last weekend with Jackson, who believed the job was his to turn down.

Kupchak’s talking points were clear when discussing the decision at press briefing.

“It revolved almost completely around the personnel that we have on the team and the style of play we saw going forward for the team,” he said. “Of course we took into consideration a structured offense, which is what we went through with Mike Brown. We looked at our personnel – without going into great detail, some of our guys I don't think would be successful in the triangle, (and) some of our new players might take a long time to learn the triangle. So we decided Mike would (be the coach).”

Ah, the triangle. Ask Michael Jordan about the triangle. Sure, it’s complicated and difficult to execute without repetitive memory. Yes, big jewel Dwight Howard and deposed jewel Steve Nash surely would have found it confounding at first. But Kobe knows the triangle. So does Pau Gasol. So does Metta World Peace. So yeah, there would have been a learning curve. It would have been handled by the all-star break, and then back to the business of winning championships.
But then there’s Jerry’s – cough – Kupchak’s point. And it’s not a bad point.

D’Antoni already had the endorsement of all the Lakers players who truly matter, beginning with Kobe. They know him, they know his style and they like it. It’s no secret that the elder Buss relished but also tolerated L.A.’s titles under Jackson. He told Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers his seven-seconds-to-shoot philosophy could be amended.

The Buss boys preferred Showtime over Chicago. Perhaps a nostalgic nod to Magic, Worthy, Nixon, and even Kareem.

But as colleague Justin Karp points out, “The thing about the Lakers of the 80s was that not only were they fun-and-gun but they won it all in 1980. And 1982. And 1985. And 1987. And 1988. They got it both ways then. They can't have that now. Not with this roster.”

So the bottom line is that there is no bottom line.


ABC7 reporter Skip Wood covered the NBA playoffs and Finals for more than a decade while at USA TODAY.