Phil Jackson offers support for both Dwight Howard and Mike D’Antoni

Within a week, Phil Jackson has changed his tune on a few important issues pertaining to the Lakers.

He expressed skepticism last week on “The Dan Patrick Show” that Howard would want to re-sign with the Lakers considering he wasn’t featured heavily in Mike D’Antoni’s system. In a conversation with 710 ESPN’s Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson on Thursday, however, Jackson offered specific advice on why he should remain with the Lakers.

“Staying with a franchise and hang in there,” said Jackson, who won five NBA titles with the Lakers in two separate stints (1999-2004, 2005-2011). “I think he likes the life here in L.A. and has hopes for success. The monetary issue is considerable. I have more Laker blood in me than Houston Rockets blood, thats for sure. As part of this extended family that runs this organization, I hope he remains a Laker.”

That’s not the only issue Jackson seemed to shift his sentiments. While promoting his latest memoir titled “Eleven Rings,” Jackson has often revisited the Lakers passing him up following Mike Brown’s firing in favor of D’Antoni. Jackson has said he “laughed” when Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told him in a midnight phone call that he considered D’Antoni the better fit. Jackson has also argued D’Antoni didn’t utilize Howard and Pau Gasol correctly. He’s even suggested he’d advocate for the Lakers to hire one of his former assistants (possibly Brian Shaw) to coach the team.

But on Thursday, Jackson sung D’Antoni’s praises.

“Mike D’Antoni is a good coach,” Jackson said. “People disregard the fact he’s bad success. He knows what he needs to have to put a team together.”

In fact, Jackson argued Howard could thrive well in D’Antoni’s offense.

“They can have a Dwight as a screen/roll guy who pounds ball inside like Amare Stoudemeir and he’ll get the ball on the move,” Jackson said. “He may not get as many post ups. He may not get as many decisive plays in which he’s directing the traffic from the post position. But he’ll have more opportunities to score in a situaton where Mike comes in and he has a training camp where everything can happen and he has more personnel around him to support his system.”

Some of the prominent Lakers had issues with D’Antoni’s system in his first year with the Lakers.

Howard preferred posting up instead of playing pick-and-rolls. Gasol wished the Lakers featured him more on the elbow than on the perimeter. Kobe Bryant, Howard, Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace from time to time suggested the Lakers should play at a slower tempo than D’Antoni’s system demands. Such issues, coupled with endlessly overlapping injuries, contributed to D’Antoni opening with 12-20 record. Though D’Antoni closed the last 40 games with a 28-12 record, Lakers fans relentlessly yelled “We’ Want Phil” chants at Staples Center.

The volume hit a fever pitch when Jackson spoke during Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey retirement ceremony in early April.

“I have some sympathy toward that,” Jackson said. “I was gratified at the recogniztion of the moment in which Shaq had his jersey retired there. But it was embarrassing in another way.”

And to the dismay of Lakers fans, Jackson threw cold water on any possibility that he’d roam the sidelines again.

“I don’t have any intention of coaching,” said Jackson, who reiterated his hope in providing an unspecified mentorship role that would help promote his triangle offense. “I’m playing a role regardless whether I’m hired and on the staff and part of the payroll, I’m here to be a sounding board and personal companion to my fiance, who’s the chief operating officer I guess you would say of the Lakers. As they ferry their way through these contract prblems they have and the whole mess they have right now in the organization, I’m listening. There’s not a whole lot I’m doing. But my role right now is to be attentive and supportive.”

And that apparently involves changing his tune slightly on Howard and D’Antoni.


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