Media day is still three days away, but that didn’t keep Phil Jackson from sitting down at L.A.’s practice facility on Friday to provide a little teaser for a hungry group of journalists that assembled in El Segundo.
It was a busy summer in Laker Land, featuring the 15th championship celebration for the franchise, the return of Jackson for another run, the acquisition of Ron Artest, the re-signing of Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown, Pau Gasol’s finger injury and subsequent MVP award in the European Championships, an assemblance of most of L.A.’s young players at the practice facility and, sure, Odom’s weekend wedding.
Alas, as Jackson was talking, we did our best to follow along with the fingers moving:
- The Coach opened by answering a question about his T-Mobile commercial, citing that he goes “way back” with Jesse James because James was a companian of Dennis Rodman’s. Your usual soft opener.
- The first comment Phil had regarding the coming basketball season was that the team wanted to “make the transition for Ron Artest seamless,” adding that Artest is “The defensive player we’ve wanted over the course of the last couple of years. Defense is going to be the item of the day.” Jackson also mentioned that he doesn’t think Artest’s presence will disrupt the offense: “Our game is not predicated on calling plays, it’s about the players reading the game and trying to get the ball to the open man.”
- Jackson neglected to talk about his contract after the coming season, saying he hasn’t talked to Jerry Buss.
- On Kurt Rambis taking the Timberwolves’ head coaching position: “I don’t think a person particularly (will replace him) but the do-it-all nature that he had has to be picked up by some people. I’ll have to spend a little more time working with the big guys, and the staff will have to take on the defensive responsibility that Kurt had. We’ll miss that but we’re (happy he had the opportunity in Minnesota).”
- Jackson agreed that his frontcourt foursome of Bynum-Gasol-Artest-Odom is easily the most talented he’s ever had, and cited the Portland team in 2000 as the last big foursome that had similar on-paper talent.
- On distractions regarding certain players’ off court interests: “It will be something we have to talk about. There’s a certain amount of privacy that we have to demand from (the players) and I think these guys are professional. They’ll understand it.” Jackson said one difference between his Bulls days and now is the media climate, including Twitter, TMZ and constant internet coverage.
- There will be restrictions for players in terms of social media from the team. “There are things they’ll have to be cognizant of.”
- Jackson said he is going to Lamar Odom’s much-reported wedding. “I’m very supportive of Lamar and want everything to go right for him.”
- On continuity from last season: “I have a group on the floor that I know can finish ball games, but a spot is open (with Trevor leaving). I have a second unit that I’m proud of and played really well last season.”
- On point guard dynamic: “There’s no secret that we’ve tried to limit Derek’s (Fisher) minutes … His work ethic is unbelievable, his preparation is as good as anyone I’ve ever coached and he’s played 82 games over the course of (four years). That being said, we want to keep him in a 22 to 28 minute role. He needs to do things for us like he did in the playoffs, a guy that can do critical things in critical moments.”
- On similarities between Artest and Dennis Rodman: “Both of them have an ability to focus at certain times and also to be distracted, but other than that, I don’t think so. Dennis was interested in defense and rebounding, but he’d pass up a shot when he was wide open. There never was that consideration that he’d be taking too many shots or bad shots. Ron is a guy that likes to score and will score, so that’s a different role. Personality wise, Dennis was a guy who could really go through the day without talking. Ron’s the kind of guy that’s very verbose. There’s quite a difference.”
- Jackson said that he’s concerned about Sasha Vujacic’s mindset. He thinks he’s the best shooter on the floor, but needs to rebound from a mental standpoint heading into the season. He thinks the Slovenian situation was difficult, but hopes Vujacic can use it as motivation. Phil added, “We asked him to cut his hair and he did.” A psychological fresh start? “Sasha played with his hair last year more than he did on the court,” Jackson quipped.
- On Andrew Bynum, who’s back in town after training in Atlanta all summer. “Andrew looks good. His weight is lighter, which is a good deal. He’s been back here for a few days (after working out in Atlanta). He’s really excited about getting back and has a goal of making the All-Star team this season.”
- On Twitter and social media: “I think it’s wonderful in our society that we’ve had (the ability to access) so much information for free. A lot of it ends up just being gossip or heresay, so it makes our society more personality oriented. From that standpoint there’s a negative, but from a positive standpoint there are some things that are very good. As far as Twitter goes, Jeannie (Buss) uses it and thinks that it’s a good source of (information) and wants me to start, but I’m saying no.
More to come next week from what’s shaping up to be quite an interesting ride.
Click the link to listen to the audio: