Phil Part III

Here’s the last of Phil Jackson’s interview:
Look for lots more next week. Media day is Monday, with loads of interviews. Training camp begins Tuesday.

Question: “USA Basketball is looking for a coach, you interested?”
Jackson: “No.”

Question: “Is it weird that a year ago the atmosphere was so different?”
Jackson: “Well, yeah, I don’t think about it, but you made me think about it. There’s always those little issues coming up with a basketball team. There’s always someone with a contract coming up. There’s always someone with free agency sitting on their table. There’s always a little level of tension that’s going on and players always have to know they have to perform. It’s a we issue and not a me issue. Basketball business goes right against basketball team, and they just fight against each other. So these players have to take off those issues and put them aside when we get to camp on Monday and understand this is a we issue otherwise we’re not going anywhere.”

Question: “Is that something you’ve had to talk to Andrew about. A few years ago he was in high school, now he’s on the brink of a major economic decision. Are you concerned that this could get into his head?”
Jackson: “I’m not so concerned about Andrew. Maybe some of the people around him. With Andrew, Andrew is level-headed. The economics of basketball, I don’t think that’s an issue with him right now. He knows he has a future ahead of him, and I think that’s important for him.”

Question: “Have seen enough of Trevor to envision a role for him?”
Jackson: “I don’t hesitate to say that if this team doesn’t work out the way I want it to, Trevor may be a starting player. I may just insert him and convince Lamar to come off the bench if I feel it’s better for the team and we don’t feel as comfortable on the floor as I’d like us to feel. That’s a role I see Trevor playing for us. I think he’s going to be a person who does things defensively and offensively for us that are going to be big pluses for us.”

Question: “Would that be Plan B?”
Jackson: “I have to give that an opportunity. They deserve an opportunity.”

Question: “Other than the usual suspects, who do you like in the West?”
Jackson: “We think Portland will make a move. The usual suspects are all the guys who were in the playoffs last year. Portland, with the addition of (Greg) Oden, could be very much in the running in this conference. New Orleans seemed to help themselves. They got (James) Posey (as a free agent from Boston). … Houston will be back. Their lineup will be healthy again. Dallas had a little bit of an off year, but will be an interesting team to see. Dallas and Phoenix will be the two interesting teams to see how they come out of the gate and play.”

Question: “You referred to this as a curious training camp, could you elaborate on why?”
Jackson: “We need some answers in training camp. It probably won’t happen until the first couple of weeks of the season. But we’d like to find out some things. Last year we found out Kobe couldn’t play the position I wanted him to play, which was the push guard. He went up and down the court and lost the ball eight or nine times a quarter it seemed like. But we tried to do something unique, and it didn’t work and we were able to make some adjustments.”

Question: “Any more specifics?”
Jackson: “I’d like to have Lamar in a role that’s kind of still on the ball. I want him to do some thing in organizing the offense. He’s also going to be played by small forwards instead of power forwards, which takes a little bit of an advantage away from him at some spots. Obviously, a big question is Andrew’s ability to get up and down the floor and have the stamina he needs to have in order to compete. The adjustment of Pau to play defensively away from the basket, which is a role he’s not used to playing. So those are three questions that could be answered, and that’s not even talking about our bench and how the bench is coming along and how they fit. Actually, I think the bench is going to kick the starters’ butts for the first couple of weeks. They’re in better shape and they’re a little quicker right now. I’ll probably get pretty good play out of them.”

Question: “The ‘soft’ label was thrown at this team for most of the summer, is that something you buy? How do you even define it?”
Jackson: “We know we weren’t a muscular, physical team. But we were able to get to where we did by finesse and speed. I was always impressed by our ability to be as resilient as we were. It was noticeable in our last series, our last game, that they came out with one specific purpose and that was to stick us in the basket. To go to the basket and get what they wanted to accomplish. That affected us. It left a sour taste in our mouths over the summer.”

Question: “So, are you saying that was accurate, that you guys were soft?”
Jackson: “You don’t get to where you are by being a soft team, but Boston was tougher than we were in the last game. They got it. They deserved it.”