Here’s the Q&A from Phil Jackson’s Wednesday afternoon press conference following L.A.’s practice:
Q. Andrew is sitting off to the side with his knee wrapped up in ice and everything. Did he practice today?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes.
Q. How did he look?
PHIL JACKSON: Fine.
Q. Do you think he’s ready to go for the series?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes, he is.
Q. So the knee drain worked apparently?
PHIL JACKSON: Whether that worked or not, it was a procedure that was, you know, tried, attempted. Whether it was successful in keeping his knee not swollen over this period of time, you know, that may not happen.
Q. Do you try to get into goading Perkins or some of the other guys into more emotional play, hoping that they’ll get a technical?
PHIL JACKSON: No.
Q. Do you want to save your match ups for Doc Rivers or do you want to disclose them today?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, you know, some match ups obviously we’ve had some success with. We had a couple of games in The Finals a couple years ago where Kobe played Rondo. I don’t think that’s any secret that he’ll be out there occasionally on him. Obviously it didn’t work in the final game; he had a big game. Our match ups on the bigs will be interchanged according to how we go. Ron is an obvious match up with Pierce, and so it goes.
Q. Kobe used to guard him basically so he could drop off him and help guard everybody else. The nature of that has changed, right?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes.
Q. The fact that you’re 47 0 in games in which teams you’ve coached had won the first game of the series, do you think there’s anything to that stat? And do you think it’s such that your players know that stat and other teams see that stat after you win the first game? How do you account for that?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, it’s obvious, first games are really important. I don’t know whether any other coaches or any other series go to as far as first games, but it’s pretty obvious the first game to win is a very important element in any kind of series. It also shows a little bit of dominance and preparedness. I will tell you the last time we played Boston in Boston, I felt we weren’t prepared for all the things they were capable of running and they showed it. They came out second half and had a great third quarter and really made it difficult for us.
Q. The word that so many people use to describe Pau Gasol is “skilled.” You keep hearing that, “skilled big man.” How would you describe him?
PHIL JACKSON: I don’t claim to have any ability or any influence in how Pau’s broadened his game. I think the way we play our game might give him a little bit more latitude to play high and low, outside and in as a center and in many different types of spots. His skill is that he is a good passer and a good ballplayer, ball handler and shooter with both hands. And that gives him the capabilities of going either directions, stepping out away from the basket, and getting shots depending upon how the defense plays him to either side.
Q. While the rest of us are watching and analyzing and rooting and everybody at home is having fun with this, does fun come into it for the teams that are immersed in it, or is it just too much serious business? How do you balance that?
PHIL JACKSON: I think joy is in the competition, and if you are a player that relishes competition, I think this is what you consider to be fun, even though it may not be ha ha fun, it’s engagement. It’s immersion. It’s focus, all those things that draw the best out of your attention and your capabilities energy wise. And so I think that is fun. I’m reticent a little bit to use this analysis, but you talk to guys that come back from the war and they miss being in the war, and they go back and re enlist because they miss that total immersion of life that they have at that particular time. That’s some of what an athlete gets, that adrenaline, that immersion of total use of their facilities and all their faculties that make it hard to leave the game, I think, ultimately at the end of their careers, and I think this is the penultimate experience obviously.
Q. Through the years have you found yourself reminding players in the course of a series about that stuff as a checkpoint to either renew or get a new direction while some of the games are being played out?
PHIL JACKSON: Yeah, it’s a reset, total reset when you start another series. You know, all that other stuff goes behind, and you reset and you refocus and accumulate as much knowledge as you can about your opponent so that you have great respect and you’re ready to understand what they’re capable of doing as quickly as possible, and that goes back to some of the other things about getting ready for game No. 1.
Q. Can I ask you a bit about the historical aspect of this: Obviously basketball fans love this match up. Does that enter at all? Do you talk to the players about the history of these two teams? Does that make any difference before the teams hit the court or about your approach?
PHIL JACKSON: No. There’s a discussion about the fans and the appeal it has only by short sets. This is a rivalry that’s embedded in the history of the NBA, and for us it’s an opportunity that rarely comes to teams, and it’s an opportunity to play each other again in a series that is a couple years later. Many times that happens. I was in a sequence like that in the ’70s, in ’72 and ’73 we played the Lakers three times as a New York Knickerbocker player. You know, you look back, there’s a couple times that teams play each other consecutive years. But it’s very rare that you have this occasion when a team has won a championship, another team is off and won a championship and now you have the renewal of the rivalry. It’s a special thing. I mentioned that to the players that it’s a special thing for us, not so much about the Russell era or the Cowens era or the Bird and Magic era.
Q. Do the players view this as an intense rivalry, though? Obviously they played each other two years ago, but it’s not like in the ’80s when you had three times they played each other.
PHIL JACKSON: I thought there was a considerable amount of energy going into the first game we played in January. Thinking back about a year ago, the games we played, those two games, tremendous amount of energy that went into those games. I definitely saw a piqued interest. It had nothing to do perhaps with the Boston Celtics per se, but it had to do with the fact that they were the champions and we wanted to kind of have an opportunity to play against them in full gear.
Q. You’ve coached Kobe for a while now, you’ve coached other great players, seen a lot of great players throughout your coaching career and playing career. Looking back on everything Kobe has done up to this point, how would you compare him just to the all time greats and people you’ve seen? Is he at the top? Fighting for a place at the top?
PHIL JACKSON: Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this is one of the great playoff performances. This year particularly stands out simply due to a lot of speculation at the end of the season and how he’s really recovered and led this basketball team during this playoff. This is an outstanding performance up to this point by Kobe Bryant.
Q. Which encore match up do you look forward to the most or are you intrigued by the most?
PHIL JACKSON: I’m intrigued by the Garnett Pau Gasol match up. I think that’s a really good one.
Q. In what way?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, Kevin is like the force of the defense, he’s really the glue that kind of holds their defense together out there a lot of times with his activity level, his ability to help and recover on guys. Pau is like the guy that we have to have to be part of the scoring combo that we’ve had with Kobe and Pau. So he has to provide some of that for us in this series against probably one of the top defenders in the game.