Yeah, because I can.
Had to take time out to nurse the wounds the Boston Celtics have inflicted onto me vicariously through demoralizing my beloved Los Angeles Lakers by falling back on the old standby: analysis.
Phil Jackson is unquestionably a great coach. He can turn any ragtag group of street ballers into title contenders in the course of a season or two. His exit and subsequent return to the Lakers highlights his greatness: once he and Shaq left, the Lakers sort of became a ragtag group of street ballers. There was no shape or form to the team’s once great core of superstars. Kobe Bryant, without Shaquille O’Neal, was exposed as missing two key elements: leadership and maturity. But then Phil returned. and the pieces once again fell into place. Kobe slowly grew into a great standalone player, and the supporting players seemed to form a solid unit. It seemed that everything was back on track in Lakerland.
But in the aftermath of 3-1 series deficit—and even sadder, in the wake of collapsing after building a 24-point lead—I finally understand why the untouchable Phil Jackson won’t—can’t—win the title this year with this team. Phil’s greatness as a coach is dependent upon one thing: player leadership. If there isn’t one unshakable rock holding the team together on the court, then Phil can guide the team to the doorstep, but can’t quite make it across the threshold. It’s why he won 6 titles with Michael Jordan, and 3 more with Shaquille O’Neal (Kobe was the co-leader, but not the sole go-to guy). And if this Finals series has proven anything, it’s that there is no real leadership among his players. Not even Kobe, who can score 30+ every night, but still can’t match Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as a team leader.
Game 5 is Sunday night. Maybe the Lakers will pull out another win. But unless the Zen Master can turn Kobe into the leader he needs to be in less than 48 hours, one more win is just about all the Lakers have left in them.
A tear…and a hope that the Lakers can regroup and get it together for a successful title run…either in the next week, or in the next year.