EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The headline in yesterday's Los Angeles Times read, "Master of Disaster." Then, there was the question of how much blame Zenmaster Phil Jackson deserved for the Lakers' Game 4 collapse. The question was a popular one around town. The answer depended upon whom one asked. Not surprisingly, the players quickly came to Jackson's defense.
"I'm playing for a coach that has nine championship victories," said Lamar Odom. "I can never see him being outcoached. I'm not saying that Doc Rivers is not a great coach. Obviously, he is. We wouldn't be in this situation if he wasn't. But Phil's won nine titles, so it would be kind of hard to call out or make judgment on his coaching decisions.
"If we win the game, then you say how Coach made that great decision. If not, then it goes the other way around. Players make the plays and the coach can't make the plays for us. He didn't lose a [24-point] lead."
Jackson didn't accept total responsibility for what went wrong in Game 4, but he didn't shy away from some of the blame. He knows a lot of people wonder what the Lakers could have done differently.
"Everybody that feels like they did something and weren't able to help the team has to consider that," said Jackson. "That's what you mull as a coach over in your mind at 1 o'clock or 5 o'clock in the morning after a situation like that. What could we have done differently?"
Matter of 'taste'
Them's fighting words. Or not.
Jackson suggested post-Game 4 comments by Kevin Garnett might motivate Kobe Bryant for tonight's Game 5. When pressed for which statement he was referring to, Jackson simply said the words were in the transcripts.
A review of the transcripts revealed nothing inflammatory, just Garnett commenting about how he now could "taste" an NBA title and how Paul Pierce defended Bryant well in the second half.
It may be a Jackson motivational ploy gone bad, considering Bryant didn't even know what was at issue.
"I don't even know what you're talking about, to be honest with you," said Bryant. "What did he say?"
When told that the comment concerned Pierce doing a decent job of guarding the league MVP, Bryant replied, "Oh, he did."
It's never over...
With all the attention focused on Bryant's relationship with his teammates, he was asked if he would sign an extension if offered one this summer. "First of all, you're talking like the season is over," said Bryant. "You see what I'm saying? So, like me to even answer that question and speculate what's going to happen this summer, this season ain't over. It's far from over. So for me to talk about that would be acknowledging defeat, and that's something I just don't do."
A small item
It has not gone unnoticed that the Lakers have been successful when playing small, with shooters on the floor. "Because we can space really good and open the floor and Kobe has room to operate," said Sasha Vujacic. "They figured out how to play us the last game, but we're going to make some adjustments and it's going to be fun." Added Vladimir Radmanovic: "I think we are more mobile that way. We can do more switching and be more aggressive on defense."