The crowd noise heightened, and only some of it had to do with the Lakers retiring Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey.
Instead, it mostly had everything to do with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson. He served as one of the speakers on behalf of O’Neal’s half-time tribute of the Lakers’ eventual 101-81 win Tuesday over the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. And before Jackson could even utter a word, the fans said plenty.
“We want Phil,” they said over and over.
Lakers fans chanted that for three days after the team fired Mike Brown following a 1-4 start. But the Lakers didn’t listen, opting for a coach Mike D’Antoni. But Shaq definitely heard the words.
“I want Phil too,” O’Neal said.
The reasons remain the same. Jackson won five NBA championships in two separate stints with the Lakers (1999-2004, 2005-2011). But some of the circumstances differ. Namely, even with overlapping injuries and a swift coaching the change, the Lakers have underperformed. So much that the Utah Jazz (39-36) still have an edge for the eighth playoff spot over the Lakers (39-36) because of a regular-season tie breaker.
Said D’Antoni afterwards, “He only won 58 rings. Why wouldn’t they?”
Kobe Bryant waxed nostalgic about seeing O’Neal’s halftime tribute on television, a routine he chose so he could receive treatment on the bone spurs in his left foot and sprained left ankle while also squeezing in enough stretching. But Bryant mysteriously didn’t see the parts that included Jackson speaking and the loud fan reception that followed.
Not that Bryant’s surprised.
“I’m shocked,” Bryant said with a sly smile.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org