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Jackson's impact on Lakers will be huge
The first significant prize in the free-agent extravaganza was won by the Lakers when Phil Jackson announced that he would be returning to seek his fourth 3-peat. And it says here that Jackson’s decision will turn out to be the most significant move made by any NBA team this summer.
That’s because, no other coach can possibly hope to give the Lakers the wide range and vital importance of the several benefits that Jackson brings to the mix.
LeBron James is one of many free agents making important decisions.
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Just his being on L.A.’s payroll maintains the optimal value of the entire franchise.
His return vastly increases the chances of the Lakers being able to sign the free agents that they will need, i.e., a veteran point guard, a power center/forward, and a dependable scorer/shooter off the bench. The most desirable of these necessities include Steve Blake, Brendan Haywood and Mike Miller.
PJ has demonstrated that he can get along with, mollify, and get the best out of, Ron Artest.
The triangle is the only offensive “philosophy” (which is how Jackson and Tex Winter ultimately describe L.A.’s offense) that can maximize Derek Fisher’s strengths, minimize his weaknesses, and give the Lakers ample reason to re-sign him. At this point in his career, Fisher would be hard-pressed to survive in any other game plan, but in it, he will continue to be the Lakers unsung hero.
Jackson is always surprising his players — like the time he inserted in a scouting video a hilarious blubber-bouncing segment of Frank Layden jogging on a beach in a bathing suit — which makes them want to pay close attention to everything he says and does. Conversely, the vast majority of PJ’s peers spend the entire season relentlessly nagging their players to do this and not do that, a practice that eventually leads to significant communication gaps.
Phil’s players have to respect his expertise, his work ethic, his respectful way of dealing with them, his razor-sharp competitive edge, and his 11 rings as a coach.
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Conversely, Jackson also respects his players, which makes them willing to accept their various roles at both ends of the court — with the notable exceptions of Gary Payton, Glen Rice and the post-adolescent Kobe Bryant.
PJ’s poise and confidence under pressure is contagious.
Kobe has learned his lesson and understands that Jackson has made him a winner.
While all of Jackson’s contributions greatly increase the Lakers chances to defend their most recent championship, the team still faces several challenges.
They absolutely must obtain the services of the three position players cited above and integrate them into the triangle. A back-up big man is particularly essential given Andrew Bynum’s chronic injuries and steep learning curve.
The issues of Kobe’s ailing knee and finger must be positively resolved.
Lamar Odom’s consistency is always problematic.
Re-signing Fisher is a must.
In the long run, no other coach — not even Gregg Popovich — could have duplicated Jackson’s extraordinary successes with this particular team, nor could any of his colleagues have the same chance to compel the next edition of the Lakers to their next championship.
For all of these reasons, Phil Jackson is more important to the Lakers than LeBron James will be to whichever team he deigns to sign with.
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