As Phil Jackson’s book tour continues, so do the tweaks regarding the Lakers.
They passed him up for the head-coaching job after firing Mike Brown and chose Mike D’Antoni instead. That plan didn’t work out so well. Persisting injuries and the Lakers’ aging personnel struggling to adapt to D’Antoni’s faster-paced system and vice versa largely contributed to the team flaming out in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs.
Don’t expect Jackson to come back. The Lakers have maintained D’Antoni’s returning next season. Jackson has also maintained he doesn’t want to coach anymore, opting instead for an unspecified front office role somewhere. But he offered precise detail on what he’d do if the Lakers approached him again about needing help.
“I would find one of my assistant coaches to help them as quickly as possible,” Jackson said Wednesday to ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd. “I know what they need. “They need to get back inside where the strength of their team is and use that presence in there to dominate games. There’s a way to do that.”
That didn’t happen.
Pau Gasol averaged a career-low 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds partly because of injuries (plantar fascia in right foot, knee tendinitis) and partly because he played out of the post. Dwight Howard averaged 17 points (third among centers) and a league-leading 12.4 rebounds because of injuries (surgically repaired back, partially torn labrum in right shoulder), persisting double teams and limited touches. The two became a stronger focal point later on the in the season. Through seven games in April, the Lakers’ output from both Howard (21.6 points) and Gasol (17.6 points) represented their highest all season when they played together in the starting lineup. Yet, the two remained fairly limited against the Spurs because of injuries to Kobe Bryant (season-ending torn left Achilles’ tendon) and the Spurs’ relentless fronting inside.
Nonetheless, Cowherd still expressed skepticism D’Antoni would keep that philosophy intact.
“You’re obviously right,” Jackson said. “They picked the path to go on they think it’s the future of the NBA. We’ll see if it is.”
Yet, Jackson insists he’s not taking any satisfaction in seeing the Lakers unravel after passing him up for the head-coaching job.
“It bothers me about the individuals,” Jackson said. “It bothers me that Pau had a season where he had so much difficulty. Kobe had a season in which he had to struggle to help provide the scoring and push himself the limit where he eventually tore his Achilles. Whether that would happen or not playing 48 minutes in a duration of time, who knows. It bothers me that a guy that’s the level of Dwight Howard has looked human, less than human at times. It hasn’t really advanced their game. That’s the biggest thing about coaching. You want players to thrive. That’s your mission.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at email@example.com