Phil Jackson addressed assembled media following L.A.’s Wednesday morning practice:
Q. How can you just whether this team is ready, what kind of feeling will you have?
PHIL JACKSON: Boy, that’s not the easiest question to answer because we’ve got two really good days of practice. Today wasn’t as sharp or as crisp, and that’s what you’re looking for as a coach is that everybody is focused, they’re reacting well, shooting well in a sense.
Q. Pau, he talked yesterday about how he really hit the weight room this season and he’s stronger and he doesn’t have to take anti inflammatories. How much healthier is he now than he was a year ago?
PHIL JACKSON: Yeah, I just think that he’s never been one that’s been dedicated to the weight room type. We understand that. But knowing what happened last year and felt we just didn’t have the muscle to get in there and wrestle with Boston in the situation that we were in, that he really had to get in the weight room, and it would help his rebounding, and it certainly has.
Q. What does it mean that you lost two games to those guys? Does it mean anything going into The Finals?
PHIL JACKSON: It means we have a great deal of respect for them as far as a team. They played very well down the stretch in both the games to win the two games they played against us. Obviously those are mitigating circumstances; we had different people in the lineup, they had different people in the lineup. It was four months ago, but it certainly gives us a great deal of respect for them.
Q. Can you talk about just what it means to be back here. And then also the role that you had to take, taking a team from a lottery to being a championship contender over the last five years or so?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, I came back at the behest of the Buss family really to coach this team back into playoff contention. We obviously got back into the playoffs even though we got back to .500 and struggled in the playoffs both against Phoenix first two years and then we subsequently have gotten to a position where we feel like we’re as strong as any team in the league. Every night we give ourselves a chance to win, and have during the regular season. So that’s been really the blessing of coming back and having this opportunity again to see this team rise through kind of a feeling situation, come out from the ashes and become again a dominant team in the league.
Q. What keeps you going? I know you’ve been dealing with a lot of health issues and other things throughout the year. How much longer do you see yourself being able to do this?
PHIL JACKSON: With the training staff we have and the equipment manager, it’s about as easy a life as I can live. He carries my luggage, and the therapists, they keep me going every day. I’m in good shape.
Q. In terms of motivation?
PHIL JACKSON: It’s really about the momentum of a season. You know, you get caught up in this day to day life that we have where your schedule is pretty much determined from October until summer. You know, you get onto it, and there’s something about it that you learn over a behavior period, I think, of years. I think it’s going to be hard to get away from it, personally. I know I’ve done it twice, and I know one year, the asterisk season, and they didn’t start playing until February, and the other year I went to the South Pacific and got away from the basketball game simply by dissolving the presence of NBA ball.
But yeah, it’s something that’s been in my life for 40 years.
Q. When you talked about health and rings yesterday, we never got around to asking you, what happens if you win this thing? Will that enter into your decision about coming back?
PHIL JACKSON: I hope it does. It’s certainly an event that would be a culmination of an effort.
Q. So that means a large part of it, if you finally win that tenth ring?
PHIL JACKSON: I guess I really haven’t thought about it in that depth. I’ve kind of left that off to assessment at the end of the year.
Q. Are you guys preparing for the possibility that Jameer Nelson could play for the Magic during the series?
PHIL JACKSON: We haven’t really gotten to that level of personnel, as to the guard personnel, and obviously we’re looking at Howard as a power player inside. But we’re still identifying it as positions more than we are as individuals. Jameer brings another level of game to their team, but we respect Johnson, also Alston, as players. Someone has got to do their job for them, and Jameer is going to come in and do it if he does. He’ll just bring another specific thing to something they do that’s an execution skill, and they’ve got guys that do things specific to their game.
Q. Who will win the game, the Los Angeles Lakers or Orlando Magic?
PHIL JACKSON: The game?
Q. Yeah, who will win the game.
PHIL JACKSON: Game No. 1? Well, I hope it’s the Lakers, obviously. It’s a big plus for any team to win the first game of a series.
Q. What about game dos?
PHIL JACKSON: We want to win Game 2, also.
Q. And tres?
PHIL JACKSON: We’ll cover that when we get through one, okay?
Q. I know you’re not going to want to discuss your strategy in detail, but obviously they’ve been running the video back and forth. Just in general what were you trying to do when you defend them? And apparently it wasn’t a spectacular success, so can you just talk about that?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, they have a lot of options in their offense that are look alikes, with the same end result hopefully, that one, they’re going to get either a lay up or a power play down low or they’re going to get a three point shot at the outside. They have a lot of options in their offense around that.
Confusion is one of the things that you want to eliminate when you get into a series, and there’s definitely going to be some confusion in Game 1. You hope you accumulate data and you can kind of go out and start adjusting. But in the first game obviously we made some defensive mistakes. In the second game I thought we did a better job. They hit some really big shots coming down the stretch.
Q. How much did losing to the Celtics push this team this season?
PHIL JACKSON: You know, I think that at any level once you have a taste of what it’s like to be here just as a motivating factor, as much as it is just to be standing, just to be left with that feeling of, you know, we’re the only ones here and everybody else is home on vacation, and at this particular point with all the tension when you get to this level and don’t lose or don’t win, and you lose, you go home and you think about it a long time. It’s something that is certainly a motivating thing for us. It certainly pushed us.
Q. Can you talk about the specific ways that Kobe might have changed his game since you left the Lakers for the first time these last four or five seasons?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, you know, the first era or segment that I coached this team, it was about a Shaq oriented offense. It was about moving the ball and finding a position to get the ball to him, very much like what Orlando is doing right now. There’s a different feature entirely that Kobe played as a guard, and he played at the top of the floor. And now he’s playing more on the wing position, and you’ll have probably more opportunities to score out of that position than he does on the floor, even though it truly doesn’t matter.
But at that position he had to do a lot more thought process as far as how to get the ball in positions to make us capable of getting the space he wanted for the inside game. Right now he’s a lot of times the distributor, the guy that’s making the defense have to react to him.
Q. Can you talk about and sort of follow about Mark’s question, what the regular season match ups mean when you’re in this situation now? They obviously did very well. Does that mean anything at this stage in your mind?
PHIL JACKSON: Not really. I think we talked about the situation as it is. We know that we had a big lead in the first game and lost the lead. We know we went in against Howard early in the game and got him in foul trouble. We came out the second half and didn’t do the same thing. We didn’t go inside and let him play the rest of the game without putting pressure on him defensively. That’s one thing we learned.
We learned also that we made some mistakes in our match up situations. We didn’t react well to some of the counter plays that they run, counter action plays that they run. And in Game 2 it was more of the same, I thought. Actually Jameer Nelson had a really big second half in both those games and was effective at hitting shots down the stretch for their success in those two wins.
Q. Following up on his question before about motivation and coming off of last year, is that something you’re inclined to talk about with the guys?
PHIL JACKSON: We backed off most of the time. We’ve talked about various times in the playoffs about how our dedication, what our dedication is, and the selflessness that it takes to play a role or to be part of the roles that have to be played on a team so that you can get to a position where you want to win. Everybody has to do their job in this aspect. So it’s referred to, but it’s not dwelled on.
Q. Kobe has downplayed the idea of the importance of winning a title without Shaq. Do you feel like winning a title as the leader of a team, is that something that’s important to him and something that could be special for him?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes, but I think if you take any team, San Antonio, winning without Robinson, David Robinson for Tim Duncan, I think it’s just another evolution. It’s not specific about the individual; it’s about how we made the adjustments to get to the place where we’re at. I think that’s important, and I think it’s important that a person gets a chance to win. I think that’s what it is all about.
Q. Obviously Kobe and Fish have been here several times, but what have the guys in the back have in their mind this time around that maybe was an issue last year or something that worried about going into The Finals last year for the first time? And what did you think about when the Celtics got eliminated and a potential rematch was done?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, we fully anticipated that the champions will come out of the East. That’s something that you anticipate. With the loss of Kevin Garnett, we understood the hurdle we were going to have to climb, not only with Kevin but also with other guys they lost this year on the team. So they have a lot of injuries, but they still were very valiant and played a seven game series and lost that seven game series.
Q. You kind of alluded to this, obviously Orlando has no Kobe, but with that inside outside game of theirs, are they a little similar to your Shaq Kobe team?
PHIL JACKSON: Their spacing obviously and their dedication to what they want to get accomplished I think is very similar. You know, obviously the three point shot has taken more of a prominent place, I think, in their offense than the early Shaq teams did, although we used the three point effectively with Rice and Fox, Horry and other guys that were three point shooters that were on that team. This team is really dedicated to three point shooting, and one of the top two or three teams in the league shooting that shot.
Q. I’m just curious, you’re a little bit more uptight today than you seemed like yesterday. How different were you before your first championship? Are you more uptight today because you know how tough it is to get here? Have you changed in that regard?
PHIL JACKSON: No, I don’t think so. I think I’ve always been a little bit nervous and anxious for that first game to play. I don’t think there’s a level I could even compare it to.
Q. So you are a little bit nervous in regards to this first game?
PHIL JACKSON: Sure, I hope so, yeah. We’re all on edge just getting ready for it. You can see how on edge I am. (Laughter).