Phil Jackson Says Even He Couldn’t Help the Lakers Win This Season

Even if he wanted to, Phil Jackson couldn’t help the floundering Los Angeles Lakers turn around their season.

This is coming from the man himself, who insinuated during a TMZ street-side interview that coaching isn’t what’s hurting Los Angeles on the court.

When asked if he could coach the Lakers back to relevance, the former Lakers coach and current New York Knicks president said coaching isn’t what’s killing the team.

“They have a lot of needs, that team does,” Jackson said. “…They’ve got a good coach.”

Expanding on the subject, Jackson added that he wouldn’t have won games in Los Angeles without the help of talented players.

“A coach always relies on talent to be that good,” Jackson said.

When asked directly if the team lacked ability, Jackson smiled.

“They’re growing up together,” Jackson said.

Jackson appears to think the biggest issues at hand in Los Angeles are the players. He also appears to not have heard about head coach Byron Scott’s aversion to good basketball.

In any case, it’s not like Jackson can blame the management without calling out his fiancee, Jeanie Buss. Long-distance relationships work better when you’re not airing each other’s dirty laundry in the newspapers.

As for the Lakers, the team is on a (relative) hot streak of sorts. Los Angeles beat the Houston Rockets on the road Wednesday night, notching its second straight win.

Kobe Bryant and company will look to extend the streak Friday against the 9-3 Dallas Mavericks.

 

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Do Cleveland Cavaliers Need More Time or Just More Help?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Superstar trio forms to equal parts fear and fanfare (depending on whom you ask), and expectations reach a fevered pitch, only to have said troika stumble somewhat clumsily out of the gate.

Oh, and then everyone loses his or her mind. Can’t forget that.

The narrative arc of this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers has mimicked that of the 2010-11 Miami Heat so faithfully you’d think Michael Bay was writing the scripts.

And so it is that we find ourselves revisiting a familiar trope: Do these Cavs need more talent or simply more time in order to thrive?

Looking at the roster, the former might sound like a ludicrous proposition. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters—Cleveland fairly reeks of freakish talent and time-tested mettles.

To be sure, there’s plenty of cachet to Cleveland’s credit, exemplified by its second-ranked offensive efficiency (108.3). On this front, the Cavs have slowly but surely began creeping toward their Platonic ideal. Which, if you’re the rest of the league, is a terrifying proposition indeed.

Seldom are titles won on one side of the floor, however. As such, Cleveland’s 26th-ranked defense (108.3) remains the mud-caked elephant in the room. LeBron is still LeBron, of course. But Irving and Love—for all their offensive gifts—aren’t even in the same dimension as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Cavs’ defensive woes are manifold. But if you’re looking for one stat in particular that encapsulates Cleveland’s struggles, it might be this: Per NBA.com (subscription required), in the team’s first eight games, it was surrendering an apocalyptic 65.4 percent on opponent field goals from zero to five feet from the rim. Dead last in the league.

That might sound like a simple case of bad rim protection. But while Love, Varejao and Thompson haven’t exactly been Dikembe Mutombo in the paint, the issues with the Cavs’ interior are much more complex.

Compelled to pen by Cleveland’s woeful pick-and-role defense against the lowly Denver Nuggets, SB Nation’s Jason Patt went a bit more in depth into what’s made the Cavs such sieves on D:

There are several reasons for these major struggles. The Cavaliers don’t exactly have many wing stoppers to limit dribble penetration, with both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters renowned for being poor defenders. LeBron James has slipped a bit on that end, while Shawn Marion isn’t what he once was. Looking at the rest of the roster, there’s not really a plus wing defender in the bunch. It’s no wonder Corey Brewer is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar in trade talks.

In the frontcourt, nobody from the Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson trio can really be described as a strong rim protector. Love certainly isn’t; his habit of not always challenging shots in order to avoid fouls has come with him from Minnesota.

If the Cavs indeed have designs on improving their overall depth, defense is sure to be the motivating factor. Patt cites the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Corey Brewer—a rangy havoc-wreaker of a player capable of defending up to four positions—as one stopgap possibility. And there are sure to be others bandied about the rumor mill.

The question is whether and to what degree any potential trade might compromise Cleveland’s certifiably cartoonish offense.

Nobody grasps this need for balance better than rookie head coach David Blatt. Widely considered one of the game’s foremost offensive minds, Blatt—whose European grand tour netted him a bevy of championship wares—isn’t exactly turning a blind eye to his team’s mounting transgressions.

“I can honestly tell you I’m a little disappointed in the moments of lethargy that we have on defense,” Blatt said following a recent 118-111 win over the New Orleans Pelicans (via ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin). “And our guys need to understand that if we want to consistently beat great and good teams and very good teams like the one we saw tonight, we cannot afford to sleep for parts of the game or parts of the quarter.”

To his credit, Blatt has done everything in his power to walk the talk. His most intriguing gambit: Giving rookie guard Joe Harris—lauded as a three-and-D specialist during his four years at the University of Virginia—more minutes off the bench in lieu of the comparably anemic Waiters.

There’s little doubt the Cavs will remain ear-to-ground in the coming weeks and months, ready to pounce should any defense-bolstering trade arise. The strategic conundrum they’ll be grappling with, however, is anything but simple:

Has their offense been good enough soon enough to warrant a bit of patience at the defensive end, or can Blatt and Co. count on similar offensive incendiaries should a trade for a top-tier stopper actually take place?

For his part, James has taken to stressing an all too familiar sermon: patience.

“Our team, it’s a work in progress, and when you have a lot of new players—particularly a lot of new, very talented players—sometimes it’s a little harder to put together,” James told USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt following a brutal loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on November 6. “If you look historically, that’s sort of been the case in many of these situations.”

These Cleveland Cavaliers will never be the havoc-wreaking defensive force that was the LeBron-era Heat—The Flying Death Machine, to borrow a bit of Twitter parlance. If, however, they can manage to somehow sneak above the league fold while maintaining their already rubber-burning basketball ballistics, contention—particularly in a historically weak Eastern Conference—is anything but out of the question.

That these Cavaliers are destined to see a more scrutinizing eye practically goes without saying. The danger lies in said eye posing ultimatums on what the team needs specifically—be it players or patience or anything else—when really the answer is much more simple:

It doesn’t need either. Although it could probably use a little bit of both.

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Carmelo, J.R. Smith help Knicks end 7-game skid

Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith scored 28 each to beat the Nuggets.

      
 

 

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Anthony and Smith help Knicks snap 7-game skid (Yahoo Sports)

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Shane Larkin #0 of the New York Knicks shoots over Kenneth Faried #35 of the Denver Nuggets in the second half at Madison Square Garden on November 16, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Knicks held the Denver Nuggets to one basket in the second quarter and went on to break their seven-game losing streak with a 109-93 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.


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Millsap, Teague help Hawks sink Jazz (Yahoo Sports)

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 12: Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks puts up a shot against the Utah Jazz on November 12, 2014 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

ATLANTA (AP) — Paul Millsap knew the Atlanta Hawks needed a lift with injuries that sidelined DeMarre Carrol and Mike Scott.


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Mayo, Knight help Bucks hold off Thunder, 85-78 (Yahoo Sports)

MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 11: O.J. Mayo #00 of the Milwaukee Bucks goes up for a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 11, 2014 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks’ deep and productive reserves led the team to another win.


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Rose back in lineup to help Bulls beat Pistons

Rose had 24 points and seven assists after missing the Bulls’ previous two games.

      
 

 

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Bulls Rumors: Ray Allen Would Help Put Chicago over the Top as Title Contenders

It is usually difficult to find impact free agents once the regular season starts in the NBA, but the Chicago Bulls have an opportunity to add a game-changer in Ray Allen.

There have been tons of rumors and speculation throughout the offseason and into the regular season concerning Allen’s future with the NBA. While at one time it seemed as though he was certain to join the Cleveland Cavaliers with former teammate LeBron James, his agent shot that down, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

The fact is that the 39-year-old guard has not yet decided what he will do this season. Allen discussed his thoughts about a return with Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant, via the Sun-Sentinel (subscription required).

“I’ve just been home, taking my kids to school,” Allen said. “I’m working out, taking care of my body. I’m in great shape. I’ll just watch how the season progresses, and if I do feel the desire to continue to play, then I’ll decide what situation is viable for me.”

As the season moves forward, joining a contending team like the Bulls might end up becoming more interesting for a player who would love to add another NBA championship to his collection.

When asked about this possibility, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) noted it was possible: “The Bulls have stayed in contact with Allen’s representatives to see if he will play this season. If he chooses to, they’d certainly add another shooter.”

Although many believe Allen will eventually end up with the Cavaliers, a move to Chicago would make as much sense for the veteran.

He would be joining an elite squad that already has the pieces in place to win a championship whether he plays or not. This type of upside without much pressure would be very appealing for a player in his position. 

Additionally, Allen would be placed in a perfect position to succeed on an offense that really knows how to move the ball. Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol are two of the best in the league at drawing a double-team and passing to an open man, while Derrick Rose, Aaron Brooks and Jimmy Butler have also proven to be willing passers on the court.

Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders noticed this ability early on this season:

The guard would get open looks all day as long as he is on the floor and should be able to add to his NBA-record 2,973 career three-pointers made.

From the Bulls perspective, adding three-point shooters is not an immediate need with Brooks, Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich playing well to start the year. First-round pick Doug McDermott also has the talent to be one of the best outside shooters in the game.

However, none of them are as consistent as Allen, who has a career mark of 40 percent from behind the arc. Besides, having extra shooters is never a bad thing in the NBA.

Of course, the most important thing he would provide is experience. Noah has played a lot of minutes in the playoffs, while Gasol won two titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the team is still relying on a lot of young players to help bring home a championship.

Allen has won two championships in his career and would provide instant leadership to this squad. He also has shown he can be trusted to make a big shot when needed, as he did in the 2013 NBA Finals:

Chicago has a lot of talent on the roster, but few players would bring as much confidence when going up for a vital shot in the closing seconds as Allen.

The Bulls are off to a strong start to the season and clearly have what it takes to contend in the Eastern Conference regardless of any changes to the roster. If they play well enough and stay healthy, they can bring home a title.

Still, Allen could represent that extra piece required to win it all. If the shooting guard is interested in signing, the organization should do whatever it takes to bring him aboard.

 

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Derrick Rose returns to help Bulls beat Bucks

Derrick Rose had 13 points and seven assists after missing the Bulls’ previous two games.

      
 

 

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Basketball must help heal Michigan athletics

Drew Sharp sees attention pivot from football follies

      
 

 

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