NBA: Heat Surge Since Jackson’s Comments

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Back in November, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson ruffled a few feathers when made some choice statements about his counterpart with the Miami Heat, Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat were 8-7 and under intense scrutiny at the time, struggling, disjointed – playing nothing like the team that is currently tied(24) for the most wins in the NBA.

The Lakers were 12-3, cruising, courtesy of the lowest strength of schedule in the league, and had just beaten the Chicago Bulls. Jackson, appearing on “The Waddle & Silvy” show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago, had some interesting things to say about the Heat’s subpar performance early in the season.

“I think eventually, if things don’t turn around, I think eventually the weight’s going to fall there where [without] the success they were hoping for, there will be a real drive for the players to have some kind of change.”

Jackson went on to say he could envision Heat President Pat Riley taking over a coach for Erik Spolestra.

“There’s a chance for that, I would say. It would take a lot more losses like the ones we’ve seen. The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — Bosh and James — by Pat Riley and Micky Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, ‘We feel you (Riley) can do a better job coaching the team.

We came here on the hopes that this would work,’ and whatever, I don’t know,” Jackson said. “

That’s kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don’t straighten out here soon, it could be the (Stan) Van Gundy thing all over again.”

There were some that took offense to Jackson’s statements, Stan Van Gundy notwithstanding, but most echoed his sentiments. The Heat have been the most criticized and scrutinized team in NBA history, open and fair game, condemned and denounced with every loss.

Surely Jackson was only stating the obvious, right?…

Yes and no.

One widely shared notion in the basketball community is that coaches should worry about their own team, do the necessary evaluating scouting of course, but stay away from publicly commenting on a colleague’s job status.

Jackson’s comments would also mean that the “Van Gundy” situation was something other than Stan’s official reason for stepping down – to spend more time with his family.

Although Jackson is a NBA legend with 13 rings (11 as a coach two as a player) to back it up, kicking Spoelstra while he was down wasn’t exactly a show of mutual respect.

Another belief is that Jackson, the “Zen Master”, knew exactly what he was doing, annoying both the Heat and Magic, disrupting their season’s flow.

Whatever he was trying to do, the Heat are (16-2) since Jackson’s comments, including a Christmas Day trouncing of the Lakers at the Staples Center.

The Lakers have gone (9-8) since, and have lost three games by 15+ points for only the fifth time in franchise history. With a loss against New Orleans on Friday, the Lakers would own a four-game losing streak for the second time this season.
None of Phil Jackson’s championship teams have had two streaks of that kind during one season.

Orlando has gone (11-8) since, losing several games in a row when a stomach virus sidelined several of their key rotation guys, including Dwight Howard.

Not shortly after, Smith traded Vince Carter, Mickeal Pietrus and Martin Gortat for Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu. Riding a four game winning streak, Smith’s experiment is working, as the Magic are now (20-12) having defeated both the Spurs and the Celtics in the past week.

It is rather serendipitous that the fortunes of the Heat, and to a lesser extent the Magic, have changed so dramatically since those comments, while the Lakers have subsequently been trending downward.

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