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Talking With: Roland Lazenby, author of the "The Show" (Part 1)

For quite some time, more than a few readers have requested an interview with basketball journalist and frequent Lakers Blog poster Roland Lazenby. Well, request ye no more, folks. We IM'ed yesterday for around 90 minutes with Lazenby (whose books include Mad Game: The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant, Mindgames: Phil Jackson's Long Strange Journey, and Blood on the Horns: The Long Strange trip of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls). His new book, The Show: The Inside Story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers in the Words of Those Who Lived It, is a comprehensive history of the franchise from the days in Minneapolis to the second Phil Jackson era. It's a great read, guaranteed to satisfy even the most hardcore fan's purple and gold Jones. Here's the first part of our discussion.

Andrew Kamenetzky: How long did you spend researching and writing this book? What was the biggest challenge involved with writing a book spanning this much time and history?

Roland Lazenby: Well, I've spent about 18 years covering the NBA, so a lot of interviews I've done over the years. Always when I was doing projects, there were lots of extra things discussed in the interviews that never made it into the projects. So when I finally got a chance to do an oral history about the Lakers, I did new interviews, but I also went back and re-transcribed dozens of taped interviews, some of them from the late 80s and early 90s.

It was fun to realize the stuff I overlooked the first time. Like the time that Jerry West told me he thought Joe Dumars was better than Isaiah. I could have had a major story out of that one, but I let it slip by, only to discover it and other things when I gave the tape another listen.

AK: That is something of a conversation stopping statement, “Isaiah over Dumars.” I imagine it must be interesting to revisit what seemed innocuous at the time, but looking back on it becomes, "Wow!"


RL: Especially when it comes to West. He always drops bombshells in the midst of what he's saying in interviews. The L.A.media had long protected West. He never seemed to worry about what he was saying. During the 1999 series against San Antonio, I was interviewing him after practice in the Forum. I mentioned Phil Jackson, and he said, "F#@#, Phil Jackson!" I said, "Wait, you don't understand." He said, No, F@#@ Phil Jackson." A month later he hired Phil. When I reported what West had said in the Forum in my book on Kobe, some Laker officials got mad that I hadn't protected him.

As a journalist, it's not my job to protect Jerry West. He's perfectly capable of protecting himself. It's my job to get the best information I can for Laker fans, because they're the ones spending their time and money following the team.

AK: I agree. These guys have been around long enough. They know the drill when it comes to the media. So many of the interviews you needed were already on hand. But it still must have been a pretty big undertaking editing everything into a cohesive narrative.

RL: It was a big undertaking, followed by a huge battle with my publisher. I ended up cutting out about 200 pages, some of which needed cutting. But there was a lot of stuff, tons of interviews that needed to stay. At the time you're arguing, you're so close to the book you think you know it all. After you look at it, you say, “They were pretty smart to cut that down… But why didn't they leave that good stuff there?” There are so many elements to the Lakers story, so many layers of the truth. Especially with a guy like Phil Jackson. Or Jerry West.

Brian Kamenetzky: The Lakers have had so many personalities like that.  Mega-star types, both on the court and behind the bench. Is that at least one reason why you can take their franchise, from start to finish, and get into the kind of depth you did... and still make it interesting?

RL: Yes, because it's Hollywood, because the personalities are so big. Even the little things they do can be major productions. It is the Show, the major production, with all the attendant complications. That's why we care. The drama on the court is big. Sometimes the drama off the court is bigger. As I say at the end of the book, it's a tragedy of postmodern basketball that Shaq and Kobe couldn't see how important they were to each other. I don't think that's an overstatement.


BK: No disagreement here.  How did the rift between the two of them compare to the others you outline in the book?  Pollard/Mikan, Kareem/Magic, etc.?  How much different would those relationships have been in today's 24/7 sensationalized media culture?

RL: No question those earlier conflicts would have been much bigger. (Lakers Public Relations executive director) John Black got really mad at me in 1999 when I explained in Mad Game the level of conflict between Shaq and Kobe. He said I damaged the club. But here was this very talented Lakers team that would show flashes of brilliance, and then play just terribly. No one would say why they were playing so badly. It was because of their chemistry. I thought Laker fans had the right to know. I still do.

The Lakers have their ways of keeping a pretty good grip on local media. Once I wrote about it, it became easier for others to write about it. And obviously it got to the point that the media made much of it. But that's because Shaq and Kobe aired their opinions repeatedly in the media. Too bad Phil Jackson didn't keep George Mumford, the psychologist, around. I thought they could have ridden through it, except for this thing of Shaq wanting his megabucks.

BK: Did that sort of thing- players and coaches using the media to the extent that they do now- sometimes to fight with each other, sometimes to put seeds in the minds of opponents, etc.- happen back then?  I'd imagine people still used reporters to deliver messages.  It just feels different, even for the two of us, who can only go back to the 80s, really.

RL: There were so many fewer outlets then. More papers but still fewer outlets. Jerry West complained that Jack Kent Cook had columnist Melvin Durslag to write negative things about certain players whenever he wanted. Those tactics were obviously available then. The options weren't as delicious or tempting, as they are with a Karl Rove type player like Phil Jackson, who has delighted in media games over the course of his career.

I should add that the conflicts between Kareem and Magic were kept well under wraps, mainly because Kareem and Magic were too professional to get into it publicly. They found a way to co-exist. I think Shaq was guilty of a certain lack of professionalism. From the early days, he kept slipping little jabs in at Kobe.

BK: So it's as much on the players as it is on reporters to respect some sort of boundaries (if any exist anymore)?

RL: I think it's more on the players (and coaches). Everyone wants to blame the media, but the media are an empty vessel. The big winners in post-modern culture, a Karl Rove, knows how to fill that vessel, to play the media. Jordan was very good at it. So was Phil. Shaq could play games, but a lot of his was petty sniping that was purely unprofessional. Childish, really. Imagine the Lakers today if Shaq had chosen a different tactic to deal with Kobe.

As Tex Winter points out, Kobe took those tactics from Phil and Shaq for a long time before he finally began lashing out during the 2003-04 season. Then Phil very smartly used his lashing out against him, never mind the fact that Kobe had spent several years trying to be the professional one, letting his play do the talking.

BK: You don't think Kobe's personality had anything to do with it?  There are plenty of people who believe that his attitude, generally perceived as aloof, had a lot to do with the troubles he had, not just with Shaq, but with the rest of the locker room.

AK: Not to mention play on the court some have perceived as selfish...

RL: Of course Kobe wasn't guilt-free. He was, however, a 17-year-old kid. Shaq led the rest of the locker room. He was the big guy in the school house. Kobe came in full of ambition, willing to work hard. Very much an alpha male even at that age. His work ethic didn't match the older players around him. As Derek Fisher explained to me, we should have had Kobe's work ethic, we should have worked that hard. Kobe set a tone that wasn't in synch with the team.

On the court Del Harris had no real offensive structure or plan, other than to get the ball into Shaq and mostly have everyone spaced around him. His practices were hardly greatly organized affairs. Don't get me wrong. Del Harris is a fine coach. The business as usual in pro basketball wasn't ready to deal with players as young as Kobe, much in need of guidance. So the circumstances play a role in that. My point, though, is that Kobe wasn't going public with some petty beef.
RL: The reality is that the Lakers were one good rebounder away from winning it all in ‘04 and keeping it all together. If they had better relationships, they would have survived perhaps. But Shaq was really pushing for a huge pay raise that simply strapped the Lakers, which is a small organization. Phil wanted more power, more say so. Kobe had always been their foil, the representative of how Jerry Buss envisioned basketball. Shaq pushed his agenda, Phil pushed his, and Kobe simply wanted out. He was fed up. He was fed up with all the pettiness and criticism and games. People say that Kobe has always studied and created his image. I think in most ways, he's been pretty naive about his image. All this Shaq and Phil stuff is minor compared with Eagle and all that. That's what put Kobe on a lot of people's hate list. I spent the past two days rereading The Last Season, and Phil really smeared Kobein that book at a time when he was facing a lot of challenges. Very sanctimonious stuff, really.

AK:
It's interesting you bring up Shaq and money, because I've always thought Shaq actually could have accepted it eventually becoming "Kobe's team," with the offense revolving around Kobe. But he never could have dealt with Kobe making more money than him, which I believe would have been the case if he didn't get the extension he wanted and Kobe got a max deal. In Miami, at least with my understanding of the new CBA, Shaq can take a "pay cut," but still out-earn a Wade max deal, post-CBA. It may become "Wade's team," but Shaq is still the big man when it comes to dollars. I don't think the potential money discrepancy between Shaq and Kobe was the prime reason he wouldn't renegotiate, but a tipping point. Any validity to that theory?

RL: Yes, the hard part in all of this is that Shaq, despite his immaturity, is a great guy, a good person, a funny and likeable guy. Without Jerry West, he felt he had no protector in the organization. He wasn't close to Jerry Buss. So he became fearful and aggressive over his future. Again, the blame goes back to Phil Jackson, because he chased West off. They both might try to deny this now, but it is true. I've reported it with attribution. Phil knew what would drive West out and he took those steps.


Phil and West didn't trust each other. I got in more trouble for reporting that Phil asked West out of the locker room during that 2000 playoff series with Portland. But it happened. I reported it with attribution. It was the truth. Phil knew when he did it that it would drive West crazy and out of the organization. I took a lot of heat for reporting that. I still do take that heat. But it's true and it was a huge factor in the breakup. Before Shaq and Kobe coexisted, Phil and Jerry had to coexist.
When one didn't happen, the other relationship seemed guaranteed to fail. A tragedy for Lakers fans, a tragedy for Phil (although I don't think he thought so) because he coached them to one short of the all-time record for titles. And a tragedy for West, because he put them together, and now he's exiled in Memphis, a stranger in a stranger land.

AK: Does that reflect Phil being more a "Shaq guy," and West more of a "Kobe guy?"


RL: West was for both of those guys, and they knew it. Why shouldn't he have been? They were all on the same team. Phil was definitely not a Kobe guy for his first tenure in LA. The things he did to undermine Kobe we only know a fraction of that story. In Phil's defense, Kobe wasn't the easiest situation for any coach. But Phil was wrong about Kobe, or so he seems to admit now. He still won't do everything for him in the triangle that he did for MJ.

Kobe
, though, isn't a complainer. As Tex told me yesterday afternoon before he headed up to Portland to meet with the team, Kobe wants one thing as his top priority: To Win. He shoots as much as he does, Tex says, because he believes right now that that's the best way for the team to win. And it is.

BK: So much energy in LA now is spent trying to assign blame for the breakup of the team. What will it take to move past it? Can lessons be learned from how previous championship runs ended?

RL: Doing fewer interviews like this. Ha. Just kidding. I think the loss is great, so the healing takes a while. Plus it's one of those debates for the ages. I think Kobe is settling a bit of it as we speak. But it will never be put to rest unless he leads the Lakers to a championship or two. Shaq carries a similar burden in Miami, but it's nowhere near the load that Kobe faces in L.A. In the minds of many, they may come to share that spoiled, temperamental space together. These things tend to run on for years.

I've written a lot of sports history, which means calling up a lot of old guys years after their careers are over. It's amazing how many of them sit around and stew once they’re out of the spotlight, over things that happened long ago that nobody cares about or even remembers any more. But a lot of guys never let those conflicts go. If they don't let them go, and Shaq clearly isn't ready to put it behind him, then the fans won't either.

 
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Dear Kobe,

I am the big daddy Shaquille O'neal! I'm in the house Can hear me WHAT? WHAT? Let's start off with, Kobe I hate you. You make me so mad. Kobe you are selfish I hate you. You are not the leader of the Lakers. I am. Kobe, you will never be as good as me. I am Wilt Chamberlain. Kobe you are not Jordan. You are Kobe Bryant, the selfish player that was in my team. You haven't learned anything when I left. You are still putting up 30+ shots. Kobe, I hate you. You are a ball hogger.

,Shaquille O'neal

My Prediction on Kobe and the Lakers against the Blazers tonight.

Kobe Bryant will end up with 15 points 3 rebounds 2 assist 8 Turnovers. 3 of 41 Field Goal Attempts. and the lakers will lose 107-70.

Once again I have to say

Kobe Sucks!

haha I hate you Shaq! Go eat more Cheese Burgers!
Visit Burger King more will you?

Kobe sucks? What the @#$@#. You must be on drugs. The official number 1 Kobe hater! man you need to lay off the drugs.

Why on earth would Phil tell West to leave the locker room? How can someone not respect Jerry West? Anyone know the root cause of their disrespect for each other?

Ak/Bk

Or anyone else, who was the "dumb" Washington Times columnist that wrote "Gilbert Arenas is no Kobe Bryant"

"Selfishness begets selfishness," center Brendan Haywood said. "When one guy doesn't make the extra pass, then the next guy starts thinking, 'Well, I'm not sure when my time's going to come,' so he doesn't make the extra pass. It's just about being a team right now.

-Copyright 2005 Associated Press in today's CNNSI.com

Great interview, I agree with the perception on both Shaq and Kobe.
Thank you
I can't wait for the second part of the interview.

K Brothers,

You guys need to go back and clean up the interview a little bit. It doesn't flow properly in certain sections.

Otherwise, thanks for interviewing my hero. I really appreciate it. Roland is the man and he always communicates with a beautiful clarity that puts all the madness into a wonderful simply context.

Thanks again for the interview.

Keep 'em comin'!

Zen,

Yeah! Why wouldn't Phil let Jerry into the locker room? West deserves respect at all times.

Why don't they like each other?

Roland,

I'm getting the impression that Phil isn't that great a guy, but listening to him in interviews and on his radio program, I've always come to the conclusion that this is an extremely intelligent, wise individual. Phil's long been the kind of guy I'd like to sit down with, have a beer, and have long conversation about basketball and kite flying (or whatever). I don't think I've come to the wrong conclusion.

Was that really Shaq who worte that stupid thing back up there? I don't think so, cause Shaq wouldn't even mention Kobe's name! Get outta here you Laker Hater!

Jon K,

Yeah, we've had a real problem transferring the text from the IM to the blog itself. Not sure why, but it's been frustrating, to say the least. Obviously, we have no idea how to fix it. Sorry if it makes things a little more difficult to read, but we wanted to get the interview up, as everyone's been asking for it. We'll try to remedy everything for Part II.

Thanks,

AK

OK people, I want you all to know a few basic definitions of internet chat.

Troll- Someone who comes into forums, or chatrooms, and posts statements specifically designed to cause a n uproar resulting in a flame war.


How do you stop Trolls?

Stop answering them. They will get no thrill out of their game as long as we don't answer. It's as simple as that.


PS

And Remember...DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!

Once again K-Bros. excellent interview.

Mr. Roland Lazenby...is there any chance you can propose to Kobe that he should start using "THE 8th WONDER" nickname. Alot of the fellow bloggers would agree that the name fits appropiately. Also the information you post in this blog and what you said in the interview is what a fan like me looks for when reading articles...THE TRUTH.

I could see the headlines tomorrow..."KOBE BLAZES,SCORES 80 POINTS!!!"

VIVALOSLAKERS!!!

Thanks for the interview fellas. It really sheds some light on a lot of questions I had. Lookin' forward to part 2. GO LAKERS!!!

Its funny how the so called Laker haters talk all this smack about LA, Kobe, and the team, but like a bad song on the radio you seem to know all the words to it. They watch every game, they know every stat and they loath to be in LA and watch a Laker game live. I am willing to bet they will be watching the game just like us to see if Kobe will break Wilts record. Its humorous you even give these sucka's the time of day. Just my two cents!

Go Lakers!!!

Wow Wow Wow.
Roland..as has been mentioned, your insight is so welcome. Absolutely refreshing. How could we ever get this kind of insight otherwise! The best part is that you're fair about it. As much as we go over the top with our praise, you know where to cut it.

I really appreciate the fact that you spell out Kobe's maturity against a conniving Phil and a egotistical Shaq. Phil drove West out!? I should've known..more reason for me to dislike the M'fer. that's right. &#*$ Phil Jackson!

By the way, have you ever sat down and talked to Kobe about your viewpoint concerning his maturity versus the rest of the team's crowding up against him? As much as he plays the strong silent type, I think it would be really good for him to hear it. Tell him he has a lot of fans who know it. Thanks for the interview K bros. Thanks for being a Laker fan Roland!

finally, someone giving some clarity to kobe-shaq feud. untill now, kobe's been blamed for everything and many people believed so. give a guy a break and realize that it takes two to tango.

It seems odd to me that Pollard/Mikan, Kareem/Magic, and Shaq/Kobe all had significant interpersonal issues, as well as multiple championships.

As I understand it, Baylor and West got along great and are still close friends. Two phenomenal talents! What kept them from winning championships? Is interpersonal tension/competition more valuable then we as fans are willing to acknowledge?

I am extremely impressed with this interview.
Well done!

This needs to be seen by every sportswriter and pundit who continue to assign Kobe the lions share of the blame in the breakup of that team.

It is so refreshing to see that an expert in the Lakers, one who has done the hard work and research, has come to the same conclusion that I had as a longtime Laker fan.

Phil is a very complex person, capable of incredible insight and full of humanity, also capable of tremendous pettiness and huge surges of ego. Also capable of great deviousness. And, as those who have worked with him have explained to me in interview after interview, an amazing manipulator (which you better be if you want to be a great coach). The things he did to some of his underlings during his Chicago days are hard to believe, because the way he handled his teams is clearly something special. Like I said, a very complex person. Good and bad angels at work with that guy, big time.
He didn't want to share the situation with Jerry West (they've had conflict that goes way back; I explained a lot of this in Mindgames). He knew that West's ego wouldn't be able to stand the affront of being asked out of the locker room. "Could you step outside a minute, Jerry? We've got some team issues here to talk about." The implication being that the Logo wasn't part of the team.
By summer, when West still hadn't announced his resignation, Phil went ahead and confirmed it to broadcaster Larry Burnett.
As for his dealings with Kobe, think of all the things he wrote in The Last Season that Kobe did. Funny, but Shaq did some outrageous things over the spring of 2004. Phil never wrote about it.
In summary, Phil's one of, if not the, greatest coach of all time. He's still far from perfect.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

I like the part about where Tex Winter says Kobe's top priority is to win. I don't think there was ever a doubt in my mind what his top priority is. What I don't understand is how people can say he only cares about scoring. Great interview with Roland, I've read some of his comments on this blog and on the ocregister. I think he has great insight with the Lakers, and would like him to comment more. KOOOOOOBE FEEEELING YOU!

Very nice interview. Roland brought up some points that scream "read my book for sources!" Roland...you just sold another one.

I find it hilarious that people waste their time trying to speak for 'Shaq' or make ridiculous predictions as a 'Laker Hater'. Come on...you can't even put a real name or email address. Admittedly, 'Maleke' is a handle, but you can always email comments. Using fake names (or changing them) must mean you cannot develop logical arguments behind the Kobe-bashing rhetoric. The funny thing is, we don't hear any Kobe-bashing after a win (it's been quiet from 'Clipper The Great' lately) but it sure pours on after a loss.

Either way, keep the trash talking alive. It only makes Kobe that much greater!! Everybody loves to see stars face adversity and SUCCEED!

GO LAKERS GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
I HOPE TO SEE SO INTERESTING COMMENTS ON TONIGHT.
SEE YOU GUYS IN A COUPLE OF HOURS.

LAKER FAN IN ILLINOS

Honestly, it seems Lazenby is relying on his own "intuition" about Phil's motives. He's assuming he knows why Phil does what he does (something someone outside of you can never really know), and based upon his own "feeling" about it, is now running around and telling people these things as facts. I think that's jacked up. He should say, "I think this why Phil did things a certain way...", but not report it as "this is fact." Plus, it's not as though Phil confides in Lazenby. This is the same bloke who wrote a scathing book about Phil some 10 years ago. They're not friends. Yet he knows Phil so very well that he can deduce for us all why Phil asked for privacy in the locker room during a heated play-off game? It isn't even possible that it's because Phil wanted privacy with his players? Instead, Phil was thinking about Jerry West and not the playoffs he was in the middle of at that time?

Then when I start analyzing the situation further, I can't help but remember that Phil didn't even really know Jerry West. He hadn't been here that long. He didn't spend time with Jerry West. They didn't hang out or get to know each other personally. They didn't talk to each other. With that as a basis, how can anyone just accept that despite not knowing him, Phil somehow intuited what would drive Jerry West to leave and then proceeded do plan how to do just that. Then you add that Lazenby is intuiting that he knows that Phil intuited this about West, and it all sounds ridiculous. Seriously, if I don't know you, how the hel can I presume to tell the world what motivates you to do the things you do? Phil is an odd egg. He does things his way. He believes in those things. How can anyone who doesn't know him, possibly conclude as fact WHY...?

Some of you will automatically accept what you're being told as the absolute truth. Heck, someone has to be blamed for West leaving and we do LOVE to blame people around here. Some of you will question why Lazenby is saying he knows Phil's motives. Some of you will notice that everything Lazenby writes about Phil Jackson, always seems to portray him as this sort of devil or horrible human being... Having seen everyone and their mother do this very same thing to Kobe, and knowing how much that bothers me (Kobe being bashed by people's opinions that others hear and just accept as facts), I'm not going to be a hypocrite and just turn around and do the same thing to Phil.

I like the interview so far, and I can't wait for the next part. I love Phil Jackson. The first basketball team I ever knew and loved was the Chicago Bulls, so my love for Phil is immense. Now that I've said that I think he was dead wrong his first go around with the Lake Show. 1) you don't disrespect Mr. Logo. He built the team and kept everything going smoothly so they could win those championships. 2) you have one of the best young talents to come along in years and you play mind games with him, and try to undermine him at every turn?!! Like I said, I love Phil, but I love Kobe more.

When I first saw him I just knew he would be great. The kid(he's older than me) did things on the court that no 17 year old kid should have been able to do, he would dunk on anybody, and had a crossover that would make you cry if he caught you with it. Coming up as a young baller and seeing that made me love him.
He just had a swagger about him that said I'm great and I'm gonna be great in this league and there's nothing anyone can do to stop me.

As I recall Jerry West was threating to retire a number of years prior to the 2000 season. It seemed year after year there were those reports. But this is the first time Ive heard That Jerry and Phil didnt like each other. What I want to know is who runs this organization anyways? Where was Dr. Buss while all this mess between Phil and Jerry was going on? Did Dr. Buss side with Phil over West? Are you sure were not talking about a bunch of 4th graders arguing over a kickball game than a multi billion dollar organization? I am just amazed at the child like qualitys each of these "Multi Millionaires" possess. Its incredible to tell you the truth. maybe the NBA should stand for NO BABYS ALLOWED! Unbelieveable!

Great Job Guys AK BK
Lanzby as always your the best!

Great interview. Yes I'm curious as well as to why Phil kicked Jerry out of the locker room. Or, I guess RL has already stated his speculation as to why Phil did that...

But certainly Phil didn't say, "Jerry, I'm kicking you out of the locker room because it will eventually help cause you to leave the Lakers organization." Phil would have given a much more publicly acceptable explanation. Perhaps Phil wanted to make sure that Phil alone commanded the team's entire focus during halftime? Maybe we find that out in part 2 of the interview?


Big Baby Shaq,

Shaq you suck.....Shut up already. I heard your Fat A$$ crying again about not getting enough touches on Game 7 against Detroit...Big Ben, a true warrior, laid a smack on your Big Fatty. WOW!!! Superman and Flash. You still watch cartoons at your age? Grow up already.
Oh yeah, by the time you retire ME and TD will have more rings than your Fat A$$. Wade will soon find out.
On contrary, I wouldn't mind having you back here. Maybe I'll ask Mr. Buss to trade Slava for you. haha....

MVP!

i have a question. remember when the lakers were dominating the league 2000-2003? shaq only recieved 1 mvp. neither he nor kobe got it because the argument was they cancelled each other out. they said the MVP was awarded to the player who made the most impact to their team. take that player out of the equation, and the team would suffer greatly. shaq only got 1 because if he was to go down, kobe would be there to pick up the slack.

now that shaq is gone...

can anybody name another player who carries as much or more responsibilities to their respective teams than kobe?

take away shaq, you have wade.
take away duncan, you have parker and ginoboli.
take away nash, you have amare and marion (vice versa)
take away lebron, you have big z and hughes.
take away iverson, you have cwebb.
take away dirk, you have josh howard and daniels.
take away tmac, you have yao.
take away brand, you have maggette.
cant take anyone away from detroit, cuz thats a TEAM, right there. as much as i hate detroit, no one on that team will get mvp.

take away kobe, and you have lamar??? i like lamar, but hes not even an all-star. you cannot count on lamar to put up 20-10. i dont even remember the last time he put up 30. lamar is a complementary player at best while many of the 2nd options on some of these teams can be 1st options.

this should be the year kobe gets his MVP...
cuz no ONE player matters more to their team than no.8 this year. am i right?????

That was a nice interview. Answered some questions during the Shag-Kobe rift a few years back.

Shaq, as likeable of a personality he's got, is one big immature baby. He better hope Wade's as good as Kobe and then some if he wants another ring. My guess is that he'll find someone to blame other than himself when they don't win championships.

As far as conflict among teammates, often the internal competition within a team can be stronger than the external competition with other teams and opponents. Often teammates are so focused on outscoring each other they won't pass each other the ball, never mind that not passing means their team will lose. Plus players compete for endorsement deals and contracts. It's human nature to be envious. And when they win, it always comes down to who gets the credit. Shaq said as much in the interviews for The Show.
Like Tex said about Shaq and Kobe, they played a lot of great ball together. They won three championships together. Shaq threw Kobe the ball, and Kobe threw Shaq the ball. But there was always that attitude.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Good Interview AK!! KEEP IT UP!!!

Just live those 2 haters alone guys...maybe they're just 16-17 year olds kids who doesn't know what the real score is. =)

A bunch of loners...kids have enough money to buy a PC and bashing our BLOG for fun. This guys are just stuck in their tinni winni rooms and play their videogames and doesnt' have a single frined in their lives...i pitty you guys

Doesn't know the word "RESPECT", "DECENCY", "POLITENESS".

First, my work is based on interviews on sources. It's an oral history. The book I wrote about Phil was not 10 years ago, it was 2001. A variety of people have acknowledged the problems between West and Phil, including my reporting of West's comments.
Another thing to remember, Jerry Krause worked for the Lakers as a scout before he became Chicago GM. He and Jerry West were very close, and Krause used to spend a lot of time on the phone with West fussing about Jackson and his ways (Krause was no saint either).
Phil Jackson has done great things as a coach. He's also done things that he'd rather not be reported. We all have done things we're not proud of. Phil inspires some criticism because of his self-righteous countenance and posturing.
Look around, Phil is not liked around the league. He has a huge ego.
But what great coach doesn't? He has done a fantastic coaching job this season, as opposed to the absolutely horrible job he did in 2004. He did such a horrible job that his team returned yet again to the NBA Finals.
He's a great coach.
It's not my job to praise Phil or suck up to him. It's my job to report him as he is, per the things, good and bad, that he has done.
I haven't even gotten into his low dealings with Johnny Bach, his longtime assistant coach.
Phil is no saint. He's a friggin' basketball coach, and perhaps the best ever.
Is he capable of dirty tricks and low behavior?
You betcha.
So was Red Auerbach. Probably still is, except he's an endearing 88.
Some fans remind me of that line from Jack Nicholson.
They can't handle the truth. It's all about shades of gray, not black and white. It's not Phil's great. Phil's terrible. It's that he's a human, a very talented human, who has done this and this.
My details are not based on some distant impression. They're based on hundreds of hours of interviews and tons of work.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

I have watched the Lakers, as well as other NBA teams, since 1961 or '62, so I have seen a lot of players. I doubt that it was really Shaq who wrote here earlier, but since he keeps calling himself MDE, most dominant ever, implying that he's the best center who ever played the game, I feel compelled to name a few centers who I think were better than him, some of them one hell of a lot better. For instance, I don't think Shaq could carry Bill Russell's (the best player ever in my book) shoes, and Shaq's very foolish if he thinks he's in the same league as him. Wilt was also a far greater player than Shaq, easily. Both of these guys were more skillful and played with far greater sustained intensity (whining doesn't count).

There are 3 or 4 other players who I think were better than Shaq at his position. How about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? You could always rely on him to play a great game, even in his late thirties. Someone who's really overlooked but was a great center was Dave Cowens of the 70s Celtics: man, was that guy intense, he ALWAYS brought his A game. Moses Malone did not have a real long shelf life, but I think at the top of his game he was better, and more dominating, than Shaq. Someone else who had his career cut short by a terrible knee injury, was Willis Reed, of the late '60s and early '70s Knicks. In my book, all of these guys were better than Shaq, and none of them was as publicly self-absorbed (maybe that's why he likes L.A. so much, it's a fashion statement over here) in any way, shape or form.

One other player who could be considered an equal would be Akeem Olajuwon of the Rockets.

And how about George Mikan? He put the NBA on the map. I never saw him play a game so I won't make a comparison.

It's funny, but people who haven't seen the great players of the past tend to think that the best they see today is actually the best of all time when they really don't have nearly enough data to make an informed judgment.

Guity,
Yes, as Eddie Jones explained to me in an on the record interview at the time, the Lakers had always been a problem for coaches because Jerry West was in the players' ears. Eddie is close to West, but he said it needed to be done. Del Harris in his interview for The Show said it was always a problem that it was not his team but Jerry West's.
Still, Harris said, he'd rather have Jerry West there, than not have him.
Phil perceived it as a problem, no question. What coach wouldn't?
These are complex, successful people, as I said before. But it's a fascinating part of the story that no one has ever really delved into. Some people I interviewed were not willing to talk about it.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Dear Kobe,

The big daddy Diesel is in town again, I'm back. Life is good without you Kobe. I hate you. I'm enjoying the waves in florida, you big bone head. Kobe, you will not succeed without me as the Big Daddy. Kobe tell Phil Jackson that he knows he loved me more than you. Kobe listen, I hate you. Kobe, your greatness can never be compared to me. I am Superman and I am unstoppable. Don't make me go Shaq-Fu on you. Im the greatest center, greater than Wilt Chamberlain. Kobe, this year, when the Miami Heat and I make it to the Finals and win it, I will stare at your baby Lakers and dedicated my smirk to you. Shaq-Fu !

,Shaquille O'Neal

Shaq,
lol

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

the lakers need a new uniform...maybe a black and gold?

Roland,

You seem to pass off second hand information as facts. Unless you were personally there to witness some of the things you have printed, how can you ever prove them to be true? Has it ever occurred to you that the person you're interviewing might have an agenda of their own?

I, for one, will not be buying your book. You clearly have a bone to pick with Phil. My personal opinion is that you're a fraud. You make Peter Vescey seem venerable.

-msb212

msb212,
You're certainly welcome to your opinion. The idea in journalism is to observe what is observable, which I always try to do. Because many things happen away from journalists, it is the journalist's job to secure the perspective of other people.
One thing about the oral history format is that the stories involve the perspectives of a lot of people.
I've interviewed literally dozens of people regarding Phil and his great abilities, as well as his shortcomings.
I understand Phil is your hero.
But the things I've written about him are factual. That doesn't make him evil. He has done some bad things, but who hasn't?
The other idea in journalism is to assemble the information and to let the reader decide. You've read my interview and based your opinion on that.
My question to you is, what are you afraid of? Is it such a terrible thing to find out that a person is more complex than you first thought?

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Wow! sometimes on this blog, I feel like we fans get an insider badge and access into the Lakers locker room...

LakerJam, i feel you. i love way too many social degenerates (or, they're perceived to be as such) to believe everything i read about them. so i hope i'm just as cautious reading negative stuff about others. however, i think roland has far and away proved his credibility and credentials. i'm very interested to read this sourcing now.

Roland, i called u out in a thread some weeks back. after i saw your comments in the "5 reasons why you can't blame Kobe Bryant" ... i said that you just sold another book in the Midwest ! yeeeeahhhh

will this book be available for us schmoes out here? or can we buy on-line?

roland

any chance you can write an entire book on the shaq-kobe relationship and the 1996-2004 shaq/kobe era in l.a. (with an epilogue that includes an update on the participants after the break up as you did with the bulls)?

please include info on other key figures like buss, west, phil, and teammates.

lots of material there

RE: Roland

No, Phil is not my hero. I'm forming an opinion on the material you have written. I came to the conclusion that although Phil has his shortcomings, as with everyone else (like you said), I feel that you interject far too much of your personal opinion for somebody who is suppose to be reporting factual evidence on this particular subject. Just my take.

People can read different publications and arrive at different conclusions. Some may view the articles published by supposed bipartisan journalists to be either to be too conservative or too liberal. As readers, and as human beings, we gather information and we decipher what the information means.

I'm sorry if you feel offended by what I wrote but that is the conclusion I arrived at after reading the material you have provided.

-msb212

msb212,
Well, you call me a fraud. You made two entries here with no specifics, no information whatsoever. So, what is fraudulent about what I've said? And what research have you done to arrive at such a conclusion? I have the research, interviews and observation.
I believe it is you who are the fraud. You've offered nothing up here, not even so much as you're real name. Who are you as a person? Step up with your own name and cite something besides your own opinion if you're going to attack me personally.
Otherwise, you're acting in a sniveling, cowardly fashion.
Who are you?
What facts do you have?
What facts that I've presented do you specifically refute?
It seems you need to do that before you call me a fraud.
I'm a stand-up guy. Let me get this right. Your name is msb212?
Are you a computer?
Maybe you're Phil Jackson's girlfriend. I don't know until you identify yourself and present a cogent argument.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Why does my opinion of your writing bother you so much? There's nothing to debate, is there? You're not going to convince me of something I don't believe to be true. You can try to persuade a Christian to become a Jew but doesn't mean that person will do so, right?

I don't see how my identity is relevant to the content of your writing. It's a moot point. I just don't understand why you're getting so worked up over an opinion of an anonymous poster on the internet.

Personally, I just have a hard time believing everything that is said by every interview granted to you. I think it's possible that the interviewee embellishes certain events or have a distorted memory based from the person's own perspective.

Remember, perception is reality. It's shaped by people's own experiences. To some, the holocaust never happened.

There is no argument here. You may have the last word.

-msb212

You're opinion has nothing to do with my response. You called me a fraud. I don't know where you come from (you won't even provide your name), but I've always been ready to mix it up when someone attacks me personally.
You did so without one specific contention about anything I've written. Obviously, you've never read one of my books. That's your prerogative, just as it's mine to respond to personal attacks.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Roland - once again an unworthy adversary. You called it out. I'm wondering, where did religion fall into all of this? The references to Christian v Jew and holocaust really have 'msb212' thinking something other than basketball. Read the books or don't read the books. Until you're named "msb212 Author of Religion in the NBA" don't slam a guy does this for a living and you can't even provide a name.

Actually, I should have chilled on it. I just don't like personal attacks. Anyway, thanks for your kind comments. And those of you who disagree with me, have at it. Just don't call me names.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Roland,
thank you for taking time to answer questions and give us some inside on the Lakers.

I would like to ask you

I don't know why I have the impression that Phil loses some games because he decided they were going to lose to make a point. This game at Portland could of been because he wanted to calm all the Kobe talk about the scoring records etc. And in his post game interview he indirectly blamed Kobe by saying that Kobe wanted to get hot and score and he never did, then he said that the rest of the team made the mistake of just passing the ball to Kobe.

See I wonder why Kwame didn't play more minutes , in Mondays game he was in foul trouble but he still played and was a big help, in other games he has also made questionable decisions and you wonder why. Also Phil just benched Kobe in critical moments as if to make a point. It would of been better just to let Kobe rest for tomorrows game.
I know Kobe made a lot of shots that were wrong, but still I have always thought that Phil lets some games slip away for a purpose and this one had that feeling for me.

Do you think he might do that?

Roland,
First of all i wanted to let you know what an excellent book Mad Game was. Reading some of that Phil/West conflict on this blog reminded me what a pleasure that book was to read a few years back. I thought your point of allowing there to be greys when it comes to Phil Jackson (or anybody else for that matter) was an excellent one. I dont understand why it is so difficult for some people to seperate the idea of a great coach from a fallable human being. The reality is that in every fallout, every seperation (West, Phil/ Shaq-Kobe/Kobe-Malone/Mom-Dad) there is always more than one person at fault. How many times do we have to be burned by celebrities before we truly understand that they are people too? Why do we feel this urge to defend people we don't even know? From the one book of yours that i have read, as well as your constant posting on this blog (Thanks but WHY?.... no seriously answer that, WHY?) you have been nothing but fair in your assesments of the Laker organization. Providing insight that allows us hardcore fans a sense of realism we truly dont recieve anywhere else. One last thing, it sounds as if you sometimes walk a fine line with regards to revealing information that could, in the words of John Black (i think)"damage the organization". You already stated that protecting somebody isnt neccesarily your job, but have you ever held back on reporting information strictly because of the negative implications it may have had on the team? Cannot wait to read "The Show", its tops on my birthday list.
John

lakofan,
Excellent question.
Some of the best coaches will lose games to make a point. That may be the case here, but I'm not able to make that call.
There's definitely a bit of a tug of wills going on here. It's similar to the same kind of tug of will between Phil and a younger MJ years ago. Only years ago, Phil, too, was younger and more patient. He used to do things to manipulate MJ into getting him to trust teammates and to be more focused on team issues. Phil is a different Phil than he was as a younger coach in 1989 and 1990, surrounded by Tex Winter and Johnny Bach.
There's a struggle going on here a bit between the coach, Kobe, the offense and the rest of the team.
But Kobe only took 29 shots against Portland. How many of those were bad shots?
It's like Tex says, you need Kobe to do an awful lot to help this team win. When does he do too much? That's a hard thing to judge. The offense seemed pretty much in balance with a lot of people adding to the cause. This wasn't a night where Kobe needed to take 37 shots.
One of the officials last night was an official from the development league. Those officials have a tendency to call too many fouls. Believe me, I've sat through a bunch of D League games as a radio analyst.
In the Washington game on Dec. 26, the Lakers and Kobe in particular lost a lot of momentum with the offiicials making some mildly unusual and goofy calls.
Last night's game was everything to do with defense and rebounding.
It seemed to me that the Lakers walked out, saw that official and immediately decided to sit back defensively, which allowed Portland's guards to gain tons of confidence hitting those early shots.
You could see Kobe's competitiveness raging early on, so Phil sat him down to cool off. After all, Kobe faced the always-tough Ruben Patterson.
Phil's a master at seeing MJ's or Kobe's competitive urges and either riding them or trying to quell them when they get too high.
As it was, the officiating crew called 50 fouls, a mildly high number but nothing like the 70 or 80 fouls you can see on a crazy Development League night.
Your point about Kwame sitting is interesting. He played 21 minutes with four points and four rebounds. He seemed to have more rebounds than that.
I frankly can't comment on that, because I don't know all the factors.
The main factor to me was how well Portland played. The Blazers hate the Lakers. It's a long, frustrating rivalry for that team. The local broadcasting team was just filled with sarcasm in calling the game. Huge homers.
The Lakers were off. They weren't solid defensively, and they encounted a Portland team that really wanted to win and played well.
There may have been other factors, but I don't know about them. And there was no bigger factor than how well Portland played and shot the ball. The Lakers, and probably Kobe, seemed to think they could outscore them rather than spend so much effort contesting them defensively.
That proved not to be the case.
Phil definitely has his hands full riding the whirlwind that is Kobe Bryant right now.
This is where we find out if Phil and Kobe really, truly trust each other. Specifically if Kobe trusts Phil. Those two have a lot of history. And with a brilliant, manipulative mind like Phil's, you always have to wonder, because he is so unorthodox sometimes as a coach.
But if this team is to move forward, Kobe and Phil have to be really tight. This is a critical stage of the season. It would certainly be too intrusive for a journalist to start jabbing away with questions on this issue right now.
This team, and this situation, needs room to happen.
Just like a coach losing a game to prove a point, a sportswriter needs to channel aggressiveness as well and allow a team room to be itself.
So we have to watch with interest. It was a tough loss, but this whole process is fascinating.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Wow! Good stuff! I am a Laker fan for years, going back to a game where Willis Reed came out in the seventh game to tilt the difference against the Lakers! That bit of emotion and physiology used by Phil Jackson’s nemesis in coaching Red (the other Red) Holtzman who tore the heart out of a lot of Lakers and of course Jerry West. Yeah a bit of history for the Bloggers!
Jerry West was the man in 69-70 and he wanted that one as bad as any, there was a guy named Phil Jackson who was on the Knicks then who was already learning how to gain an edge from an old pro- Red. This kind of stuff leaves scars and the Lakers for years during the regular season looked like the team to win it all, but somehow they got edged by the Knicks or the Celtics. Milwaukee was another story and Sweet Lew – but I will leave that to anyone who even has one clue as to who I am talking about.
I can only imagine that after Jerry finally won a ring -as a team player and not the leading star at that- Phil could have thrown a jab at old Jerry about the good old days when the Knicks stole away Jerry’s Thunder. Oh boy the vanity, the ego, the player, the coach the GM. Just speculation...the kind of stuff that happens between ego's and gets under peoples skin.
Jerry was in charge of getting Shaq and Kobe together and getting Phil into the best position he had ever been in. The Chicago ownership and Phil never got along- another couple of Jerry’s he didn’t get along with. Jerry Buss must have liked him - his daughter did we know that! Jerry W. was on the outs because Phil was getting all the press and accolades not to mention $$$ so why would he want to take a back seat and then get talked to without the respect he deserved from Phil- a bench warmer for the Knicks, often hurt, hardly even a player next to the MAN the logo of the league, JWest44 come on now!!! We are talking legend- and this should have been known but the kids today just remember Michael and that’s about it - Magic if we are lucky! Jerry was in charge of player movement and Phil wanted his people still involved- only guy who might know more than any of this story would be Superman- Kurt Rambis- lived through it all and still has a seat on the bench.
Roland you put together a real piece of work here and I commend you for your honesty. I believe it all, - hook, line and sinker! The way Kobe came into the team and had the Michael image down he was really smooth but all that bashing and constant Shaqism’s out of fear and worry that Kobe was getting better and working harder, you know the kids going to rule but not over Shaq – he was too busy making feuds happen, and Kobe just had enough – it truly makes sense. Thanks a ton Roland, I have been piecing this thing together through the years and between all these ego’s they have all let me down, only because I would have loved to see it all keep going and win many more titles! Too bad for the ultimate sin of all vanity. A great last line in a movie called the DEVILS ADVOCATE – Pacino (as Satan) and all the stars know it so well –says “Vanity, definitely my most favorite sin of all!”
I look forward to more from you Roland here and at the book store! Keep up the good work.

dear roland,

you have not mentioned an instance when kobe, during his sex scandal case, referred to shaq as one who got away with similar case by settling it monetarily. i think that made shaq hurt and angry. can you blame shaq for his reactions to kobe?

Roland,

you mentioned that there are some things in the Triangle Offense that Phil still won't do with Kobe that he did with Jordan, care to elaborate?

Hey I don't want to act like a suckup simply because Roland's a Laker fan..but msb

It's one thing to state an honest logical opinion that you don't take everything Roland says at face value. But then you go ahead and call him a fraud and when he responds act like you're the bigger man by saying, "sorry you're offended."

Wouldn't you be?

As I said above, Roland is a Laker fan, but knows how to cut praise from becoming gratuitous. I don't believe Roland would bother converting you to a Jew...(what is with that reference?) and seems quite open to dialogue. I'm not saying you shouldn't be Christian (your words)...just try and use a little logic in arguing. Don't believe what he says? Tell us why. If it's simply for the reason that you don't think he knows the people he's interviewing, we can all say..you don't know the interviewer. Just take this interview for what it is.. a little perspective.

Thank you for being a Laker Fan MSB.

Roland,

Yoou're the man.

Thanks for you comments.


After hearing the explanations on this blog, I feel what Phil did was right. What did Phil do that was so bad? If Jerry West wanted to be a coach, he should be a coach. Not a GM.

If Jerry West got in everyone's ear like you say, I think Phil sent a good message. Seems to me that Jerry wanted to be a coach without actually doing the dirty work.

Lakofan,

Why would Phil send those kinds of messages to Kobe? Kobe needed a rest. Especially since they play tonight. Phil likes to change things up if things are not working and since Portland had a 10 point lead, it was time to make a change. The lineup he put in had been successful in the past coming back back from deficits. Then he can put a rested Kobe back in for the finish. It just didn't work out last night.


Well after reading the comments by Msb212 and Roland I can fully appreciate the passion that we have as Laker fans. Roland during your interview you stated that Tex has some strong feeling's about Kobe and his play. I would love to see a interview with Tex so he can explain to us in his words about the difference between Jordan verus Kobe in his offense. AK/BK/or Roland can one of you guys make that happen. Also it seemed that Tex had a different opinion of Kobe than Phil first time around. Is that true Roland?

Roland,

In your humble opinion, who do you feel was the greatest player ever?

Who do you feel is the greatest professional basketball organization ever?

Who do you feel is/was the greatest coach ever?

Who do you feel is/was the greatest GM ever?

I'd love to know, but if you think your answers are going to get you in trouble, I'll understand if I don't get a reply.

First to John Barry,
Thank you for your kind comments about my work and Mad Game.
If you look at this blog, you get an answer to your question as to WHY I would participate.
I teach college journalism, and the world of written communication is evolving as I type. How exciting it is to interact with people who care intensely about the subject I'm exploring.
It takes the writer out of the ivory tower to where he has to converse with readers, many of whom have tremendous insight and experience.
Some of the things I've said on this blog I've explained well. Others I haven't been clear enough about. Sometimes that's where the trouble comes in. With a book, you don't really come in contact with the reader, and when you're vague you don't get a chance to explain yourself.
Maybe some writers wouldn't want to risk an exchance like the one I had with msb212. but those kinds of challenges are a part of the essence of communication.
The other big answer to WHY is that this is huge FUN. I care about the subject very much, so it's just as fun for me to interact with fans and readers. I think it's a privilege to exchange observations and ideas.
My regret is that I didn't have this blog in writing the book. I would like to have included the perspective of long-term fans. Jerry Buss has the bankroll, but it's the fans who own the team.
As it was, I had to cut out interviews of people I respected very much.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Pete McGuire,
Much of what I said in the previous post relates to a quality person such as you.
Phil, of course, showed The Devil's Advocate to the Bulls during the 1998 playoffs, spliced in and around the scouting tape as he does.
I should clarify that Jerry West is one of the greatest general managers ever, if not the greatest. He cares so much, and obviously exercised tremendous restraint around the team. His comments were often much needed. He was ultimately judicious. Sometimes it was hardly what he said, if anything at all. His great aura is enough to intimidate most people. Or to crowd someone like Phil.
I have the ultimate respect for what Jerry has done. That's why even addressing the issue is so difficult. It's difficult to explain the true nature of what goes on around a pro team. That's why most teams, like the Lakers, set up a PR facade for the fans. Otherwise, they'd all go crazy.
As a journalist, I like to explore these issues. I readily agree that it can be counterproductive. Yet I think most fans deserve as clear a picture as they can get. Like I said, they own the team.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

or mayyyyybe i think phil sat kobe down to give away this game against the blazers in order to keep th eteam focused on getting back on the winning track against a better team in cleveland. its always interesting to speculate what phil is thinking in his head.

Aiktra,
You are exactly right to bring up the point about Kobe's comments to police during the initial investigation. That caused great harm to the Kobe/Shaq relationship. Not mentioning it more is a shortcoming for me.
I will say this, although I'm not sure it ultimately matters. There's no way when Kobe was speaking to police did he ever in his wildest dreams think that he was saying something that would be made public and spread around the globe.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Mmutoni,
The triangle offense is so simple, yet it has so many facets. Tex Winter is immensely proud that it can incorporate so many looks within its basic structure.
Every year in the playoffs, the Bulls were known to have a variety of things they didn't use during the regular season that they could spring on opponents. Sometimes they would to to what they call "automatics" where they spread the floor, get a lot of back screens and blow the surprised opponent away. They did that to Pat Riley and the Heat during the 1996 playoffs. There's always something.
The triangle is not thought to be anything resembling your basic isolation pro offense. Yet the Tex and Phil worked quick isolations for Jordan on the strong side, where he would make a pass, set a backscreen, then pop out quickly for a surprisingly easy open look.
Tex said Phil had not wanted to do this option, because he's more focused on finding ways to get the rest of the team to step up and use the offense. Kobe has worked so hard studying tape, learning every little phase of this amazing system.
I remember rebounding free throws for Kobe in the Forum after practice one day in 1999. He told me that one day he would have Tex Winter as his coach, that was his dream. He has done his part to live up to that dream, at least in terms of all the studying and effort.
It's a part of the story that many people don't realize about Kobe Bryant. Tex Winter is awed by this special player who has the work ethic and determination to continue this experiment into a very disciplined and multi-faceted approach to basketball.
It's a system, we all know, that combined with extraordinary talent, has played a part in winning nine NBA titles. It's played a huge role in making the NBA the great game that it is. Phil Jackson deserves tremendous credit likewise as a coach willing to risk his career and talent exploring these options.
My only question is, when are the people who control the Hall of Fame going to recognize Tex Winter's immense contribution.
The onus for that is on Jerry West, because he's the most powerful person in basketball. When will Jerry West insist that Tex Winter be elected to the Hall of Fame as a coach?

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Jerry West, the most powerful person in basketball?

That's quite a statement Roland.

Great interview! Now where can I buy Roland's books?
And one other comment:
Jon Kavulic - must you be a blog hog?? you need to sit back and read and stop bloviating over and over.Perhaps someone else might want to post without feeling intimidated. Not all of us are seasoned writers and/or eogists.
Give the rest of us a break from your high and mighty opinions, Jon!
Go Lakers !

Think about it. His opinion is the most respected. As David Stern's number two man, Russ Granik, told me in an interview, there's very little that the NBA does without consulting Jerry.
And the Hall of Fame? Jerry West's opinion, and a few phone calls, would be enough to get any worthy person in the Hall. He has the power to rectify the long snub of keeping Tex Winter out.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Kimmie,

Shut up.

I'm sorry I make you feel intimidated. Wait, hold on a second... No, I'm not.

Roland,

Do you think that the Lakers should retire Bob McAdoo's number?

I don't understand the politics of why Tex Winter is not in the Hall of Fame, by all reasonable standards he should be.

Is Jerry West in any way working to keep Tex Winter our as an indirect/passive-aggressive means of getting at Phil Jackson?

Roland,

In the simplest estimation based on your knowledge, foresight and connections, do you think there is a chance in Hell that Phil will finally be able to break through to Kobe similar to the way he did with Jordan? Everyone constantly make the assertions and speculations of Kobe vs MJ's age, when Jordan started winning championships, etc. We've all see just how miraculously talented Kobe is, but can he break through? I think we all want to see that. But then again, not knowing one's limitations can be a limiter in and of itself! Thanks...

Jon,

I like your posts. Keep posting. Somebody needs to hold it down in here.

Roland,

Thanks for your insight. You are the man! You can talk Lakers on a blog and make money selling books at the same time. Now that's a cool job!

Roland,

You are an example of a sportswriter who does not resort to lazy generalizations, but instead researches his subject and provides a perspective that can accept the complexity and good/bad qualities of each actor in this amazing drama!

I especially appreciated how you pointed out Kobe's long-suffering endurance of Shaq's little barbs, for years really. Shaq had it in his power to create an atmosphere for a talented and hard-working kid, but he seemed remarkably threatened and insecure. Kobe kept his mouth shut for 8 years, and yet Shaq was no closer to doing a Kareem-to-Magic transfer of leadership than he was on day 1. Not that it even had to be an issue, but when Kobe finally unloaded to Jim Gray what he had to say was so scathing and precise that Shaq still feels wounded by it.

Roland,
You have gone above and beyond the call of duty here. I am in awe of the insight and truth to all of what you have written. Just like Shaq and Kobe, Jerry and Phil had a power struggle and the owner had to appease someone in both cases, looking into the future I hope Mr. Buss is right!
The Phil and Jerry thing sucks because we were left with Kupchak and he just isn't making any intelligent or huge moves. None quick enough to satisfy the Laker faithful- that is for sure. We could have certainly used Jerry West and still could as the face (the log) of the Lakers because the man is Mr. Clutch, he seems to make good judgments, and lends credibility to the organization! I mean this guy is a Laker and should have been for life, too bad he left or was pushed out, and too bad that he hasn't appointed Tex to the Hall of Fame! Whew! Did he become the commissioner too! On Phil’s behalf this team won 3 Championships and that has to count for something. The zen man had his way and it was the right thing to do at the time.
Kobe and Shaq, well those two have issues beyond basketball and as far as what we will see in the press Kobe will more than likely is the bad guy. Shaq has made sure of that and Kobe’s mouth ran a little too much under pressure in Colorado. I am over it, but those two aren’t and it is sad to see Shaq at his age can not be intelligent enough to be a better person about it, forgive and forget, the kid was scared and lost his mind. Kobe is lucky he didn’t have to go to trial or he truly would have lost a ton of credibility and who knows what else- like freedom. Shaq will be fine and possibly can win one more, it doesn’t look like the Heat will pass up the Pistons though. Kobe has unreal talent is still hanging with great colors and for my money we kept the right guy, we still have Magic and Kareem as far as the faces of the franchise and I hope Magic can lure a few more talented big kids into the purple and gold. We are about two years out but the kid can make anything happen in any given game and the seats will be full in the Staples Center waiting to see it!
The breakdown of the triangle and what goes on is amazing but it basically can be improved upon with more backscreening- or pick and rolls- Karl Malone showed us that and these young players really need to learn from the things that work.
Anyway, great blog, always a venture to read through all of the passionate fans venting frustration and curiosity. I am about half way through a book called "Let me tell you a story." and let me tell you the other Red was the man. I always respected him but books like this one put him right where he belongs. On Top Baby, and that is hard to say as a true laker fan. I will be looking for your stuff too now Roland, good work.

Jon Kavulic, here’s my two cents, not that you asked for it but oh well-
Best player ever Wilt in talent, Russell in every other category especially wanting to win
Organization – Lakers , Celtics run a close second that’s my heart speaking
Coach – Red Auerbach, just because he made the game a lot bigger than it ever was.
Best GM probably Red or Jerry West
This stuff can be debated for hours, days just ask any of my 4 brothers. Michael Jordan was a great one but history is what it is, read the numbers and Wilt is it- Most Dominant Ever by a mile, Shaq is crazy to even consider himself. Russell was diving for balls and running the court like a gazelle, no way the big shack could play him. Wilt couldn’t.
All this can still change that’s the beauty of sports and new prospects like LeBron James.
Thanks again for incredible stuff , one of the best blogs I have ever seen on the Lakers! you are awesome Roland. Enjoy the game!

Wow,
There's a lot to answer here.

Rocky,
You're dead on, man. Except that sports publishing is its own sort of ghetto. My publisher says I probably shouldn't be on this blog giving it away for free. But that's a joke. Somebody on here called me a fan, which is also dead on. A sports history can sell some copies, but have you ever heard of one making a best-seller list? Especially a basketball history? Terry Pluto's Loose Balls is about it. And that's more a matter of a book that sells and sells on a slow and steady basis over the years. I've written a good book. I'm proud of it, but as soon as you see it on a bestseller list dial me up. We'll celebrate.
In the meantime, I've always kept my day job.

Gary,
As Tex explains it, it will always be a night-to-night situation with Kobe, because that's the way it was with MJ. The player always has that skill and that huge competitive spirit. As Tex explains it, Kobe always wants to do the right thing, but that much competitiveness and talent can make for impulsive play. Kobe is human after all. He's trying. That's the thing Tex loves about him, that he plays so daggone hard every night. As I said here a couple of weeks ago, Michael's two years at Carolina helped him accept the maturity a little more easily at age 27. But not by much. Before Phil got him to make concessions, he was pretty much a ruthless machine.

Jon,
I'm not sure what you and Kimmie got into it about, but I hope I didn't cause it. Peace on earth to everyone. And that's coming from me, who got a little hot myself last night.

As for Tex, the Hall of Fame and Jerry West, I'm not saying that Jerry is blocking Tex, just that he could do a lot toward making that happen. The Hall has its formulas for coaches getting in. People there have suggested that Tex go in as a contributor, rather than a coach. I nominated him as a coach a couple of years ago, and it went no where.
Now, Tex has been a coach for 60 years. He doesn't want to go in as a contributor. But he doesn't even have that yet. There's no doubt Tex is a coach. It shouldn't seem like such a complex issue, but it is.

As for Bob McAdoo's number, he deserves so much respect. A former league MVP, he came off the bench for the Lakers, swallowed his ego and helped get a ring.
That's not my call as to whether the Lakers retire his number or not. My guess is that they won't. I just thing the guy was that good, that's why I mentioned him for my all-Lakers team.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Jon,
Forgot to answer your question. The game is so big, has changed so much, that different players from different eras played an entirely different game. I wish I was qualified to pick the all-time best. I know the territory, who was good way back when and who is good now. But it's a team game, and the best I can do is honor the great teams and the players who made those teams great.
Have I spread enough bull around?
Enough qualifiers?
I tend to break it down into two all-time MVPs. Bill Russell and Magic Johnson, which is actually a two-headed monster named Magic Abdul-Jabbar. Oh. Let me see. I forgot this guy everybody knows by his first name. Mike.

Eenie meenie minie moe.
Pickin the greatest is a choe.
My brain's not big enough.
For me to know.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Roland,

Thanks for the reply. Simply: Best. Insight. Ever. :)

Ronald,
Thank You very much for taking the time to answer my question.

I know Kobe did not take that many shots as he usually does (no complains, he can take as many shots as he needs to ) , but he took to many 3 pointers in my opinion. Also sometimes Phil makes certain decision that you wonder why, yesterday for me was why Kwame didn’t play more. Like you said the offense wasn’t the problem it was the defensive end of the game and we know that Kwame is good playing D, so why not waste six fouls on Kwame on that end of the floor?
Like I told you I sometimes have the feeling Phil lets some games slide for a purpose and I don’t know if in the end it will help make the Lakers a better team or just make them worse and make his relationship with Kobe go in the wrong direction again.

Kobe is a very intelligent man, I think he has Phil figured out and Phil does not like it. Maybe all of Phil’s previous players were manipulated by Phil and maybe he can’t do that with Kobe, because Kobe has a lot of confidence in himself, his game and his beliefs.
Maybe Phil wants Kobe to be less confident in order for Phil to accomplish his goals; of the team if you like, but I think it goes beyond that.

I have the feeling that Phil's relationship or lack of it with Kobe sometimes dictates the way he coaches. I could sense it by looking at him in interviews that he wanted to stop all this Kobe talk about scoring records. Maybe he does it to change the focus of that for it not to be a distraction to the team and go back and be focused on the TEAM.

I think it is a power of wills with him and Kobe, but to tell you the truth I don't believe Kobe cares to much about the power of it. Kobe fights for what he beliefs is good for winning and that is basically it. I don't by all these reports that Kobe is about Kobe, Kobe and Kobe. Kobe is very intelligent he knows that his personal glory is obtaining glory for the Lakers, he wants to be remember for that more than anything. Besides Phil and Kobe are fighting for the same thing, that is glory beyond their present glory. Glory in a sense for eternity. I think Phil sees a lot of him in Kobe and maybe that is the problem. I also think that both of them know that they need each other , because Kobe knows Phil is a GREAT coach and Phil knows that Kobe is a GREAT player.

Do you think Phil and Kobe have a sort of love/hate relationship? Or is it more like a Father/Son relationship? Where Kobe can never do enough to make Phil happy . Where Phil can never truly complement Kobe because he thinks Kobe’s ego is high enough. Where Phil is afraid that all of his teachings are not being heard by Kobe, so he moves to the ones that truly pay attention to his every word and take is opinion and apply it without wondering if he is right or not.

I just realized this interview was here, I must have missed it yesterday.

I love that a guy like Roland posts here. I would give my right or left nut to sit down with some of the Laker greats and just talk to them. The fact that he has done that and then relayed to us how that went is pretty awesome.

Thanks for sharing! Sorry for the late post

About Kobe's superior work ethic: i remember after the Lakes won either their second or third championship during the heyday, Fox Sports did a special on Kobe (something in their biography series, can't remember the show's name, anybody catch it?)... well, they talked about the kid's seriousness. kobe came off as aloof b/c he never hung out w/ teammates. magic even suggested for kobe to spend time w/ them at clubs and strip clubs but kobe said (loosely quote here) 'that has nothing to do with basketball or being a good teammate.'

i tell ya the kid's maturity was admirable. colorado only made me look at kobe as human, a flawed, careless human, too. but never will i question the kid's maturity, work ethic and character (for the most part, i'm still impressed with his cracked character)

i had forgot all about that Fox special until i read this particular thread.

hey roland, which phil do you believe? the one who wrote "last season" and trashed kobe or the one who came back to the lakers and said he wanted to take some heat off kobe? is phil that manacially manipulative that he would come back to screw kobe one more time?
i'm actually smiling why i type this, but more or less, what do u think is phil's REAL motivation in coming back to the lakers?

and what specific growth, if any, have u seen in phil and kobe's relationship? sometimes i like to believe like an optimist child, but since i'm not, i can't believe that you can repair scorched bridges within a year's time.

thanks! and answer my question!!! dude, how can i get your book in the midwest? my local barnes and noble or the net?

Roland,

I love your comments. They are very insightful...even if I don't totally agree with all of them. Honestly, there are still even more factors on why the Lakers succeeded/imploded in the last few years that have not been covered.

Shaq obviously is not only a great talent, but an alpha male that has to be recognized. If he did not receive the spotlight, he pouted. Kobe, is again, blessed with wonderful talent, but also has to be the alpha male.

But lost in all of this is the contributions (in the locker room, on the court, and off the court) by 3 major players: Rick Fox, Robert Horry, and Derek Fisher. These players kept the ship rolling along with their wonderful attitudes and work ethics. We may only have gotten to enjoy 1 championship without their efforts. There was a piece in the LA Times before the playoffs in 2004 that talked about those caught in the middle between Kobe and Shaq. These three players were more instrumental on keeping the peace that we realize. I hope that your books highlight this.

Also, and maybe you can clarify this too Roland, the last great talent that the Lakers drafted was Kobe. If you look at the drafts that they had after 1996, how many of them have been significant players in the NBA? While I believe Jerry West is a legend, some ofhis draft picks did not turn out as well as they hoped. I know that there is a lot of GM bashing by Laker fans, but it almost seems as though picking draft picks isn't as easy as we would like it to be. Add on salary cap issues and we can see how Mitch cannot always get the people to surround Kobe with that will contribute night in and night out.

Please let us know where we can buy your books. I am interested in these. I have read all of Phil's books and found them very insightful into how he thinks. I would also like to see some of the other stuff that happened behind the scenes to collaborate with his books. By no means is Phil perfect. He is human. But there is always a method to his madness, even if it seems like it is wrong to us...

Every time I open up this website, I go, wow, great posts. Not because people are saying nice things (I saw wow to that, too), but because the questions and comments are so good and challenging to respond to.
So here goes again:

David Gago,

Huge comment about the role players. They were and are as big to the success as the superstars. And I'm not just saying that. I've talked a lot about team psychologist George Mumford, who has always raved about the great Laker role players. Emphasize great. One of the biggest factors in the falling off of the Lakers was the retirement of Ron Harper. Hard to overestimate his influence on the growth of those championship teams, on Kobe's growth, and helping Kobe to move toward the kind of mindset that Phil could work with.
Then you have a guy like Derek Fisher with his dedication to team. I had gotten to know Derek and observe him. When Tex Winter was coming to town to start work as an assistant to Phil in 1999, I phoned him and told him not to overlook Fish. I said he reminded me of a young Joe Dumars, not so much in terms of talent, but in terms of IQ about the team and character. Lo and behond, Fish became the key ball pressure component, just as Ron Harper had been during his younger days in Chicago.
The contributions of Fox and Horry don't even need my comment. You lose a guy like Harp, then you let a guy like Horry go? No wonder Shaq and Kobe struggle. You've pulled the rug out from under them. The day the franchise let Horry walk, the championships ended.
Fox and Horry were the product of Jerry West's managerial brilliance. Harp revived his career with Phil's influence. Their playing together was really like a merger of two great franchises, the Bulls and the Lakers. No wonder the team won three.

Cbuck and Lakofan,
Obviously I've been a little hard on Phil (and he doesn't like me much because of it; I don't care; it's not my job to be liked by Phil; it took me a while to get that straight). While millions worship him, I have pointed out his shortcomings in reaction to the games he played with The Last Season and with the way he used publicity to attack Kobe (I've also done it because of a few very serious things he did in Chicago). For a while there, people so worshipped Phil that millions accepted his view of Kobe as the complete truth.
Now, a few people are starting to understand how he influenced things.
Lost in all of this is the fact that Phil is a fantastic coach and a person who has influenced the lives of his players in dramatic ways. By doing that, he has also become a major force in popular culture. People the world over consider him a Zen hero worthy of worship. Phil's ego rages at times (every day), and he used to depend on Tex Winter telling him about himself and standing up to him.
Dr. Buss firing Phil was the best thing that has happened to him in a long while. It was a bigger humiliation than perhaps we realize. He needed to be humbled.
And now Kurt Rambis has the kind of status where he stands up to Phil on team issues and challenges him. Hats off to Kurt for earning that kind of respect from Phil.
As to why he came back, it's simple. PHIL IS A GREAT F$%$ING COACH. HE WANTS TO WIN ANOTHER TITLE. At least that's Tex's take on it.
We're witnessing a great coaching job this season. People like you and me have never really understood how Phil works. He's mysterious (he likes it that way). Kobe has explained to me that he's never cared for Phil's mind games. "Just coach," Kobe told Phil early in their relationship.
Do you think that didn't set off a spark?
I think Phil and Kobe are equally matched. They have very strong wills. Kobe needs Phil as a coach. It appears that Phil has finally realized he needs Kobe as a player.
As for further analysis of their relationship, father/son, etc. I am not a psychiatrist and therefore unqualified to enter those waters much beyond sticking a toe in every now and then. Tex obviously felt the need to protect Kobe from Phil in their early seasons together. He told Phil to stop using Kobe as his whipping boy, saying that doing that to a young player could ruin him.
As I said earlier, Phil and Kobe will reveal the depth of their trust this season. They are defining that. It's not up to someone like me to try to define it. We are all watching this with fascination. What is matched with these guys is the will to win. Both are extremely competitive. They would both sleep with the she dogs of hell to win a title. So that means that despite their history, they are willing to get past it in a hurry. Kobe's not a guy to dwell on the past. He's got his eyes only on the huge future he sees out there in front of him.

As for personnel issues, Jerry West told me years ago, you can see what a player can do on the floor, but you can't read his heart. There are so many factors in how a player develops. West is the best ever, and if his record isn't perfect that tells you something about the challenge. Plus, you're talking about playing for the Lakers, you're talking about The Show. There's a huge difference between getting on the floor at Ball State and stepping up in Staples.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Roland,

Love your insights on the Lakers, Phil, Kobe...I've got to say, every time I read one of your post, I find myself drawn deeper into the Lake-Show rabbit hole. You sold yourself another book!

There's been several articles written on how Phil wants Artest in a Lakers' uni. Let's say through some miraculous feat we do get him. In your opinion, how will Phil coach an "erractic headcase" like Ron Artest? What kind of "mind games" will the Zen Master employ to control and nurture him? How did he do it with Dennis Rodman?

Thanks, Roland.

No McAdoo Jersey Retirement, No Peace!

Huh. It seems curious that the Zen-Master has such a powerful ego when the essence of Zen is transcending one's ego and acting from spontaneous emptiness. Hmmm...

Roland,

You seem very protective of Kobe. Do you feel that way?

Do you feel that Phil will be around after his three year contract is over? I hope so.

Do you think that Rambis will be given a second chance to head coach the Lakers someday?

Lakeroaf,
Thanks for the kind words. Great questions. First, with Rodman, Phil got a lot of credit for turning Dennis around. And he surely played a role.
But the main reason Dennis straightened up in Chicago is that he feared MJ, wouldn't have dared doing anything to incur his wrath. Now, in San Antonio, Dennis was a trouble maker, because he had no respect for David Robinson. The Admiral, while being a wonderful human being, was not all that interested in practicing. Rodman with his great work ethic was disgused by that attitude and refused to so much as speak with Robinson.
In Chicago, Rodman loved Phil. I interviewed Rodman the first week he arrived in town and asked him what he liked about Jackson. "He's laid back," he said. "He'll kick back and drink a beer, light a joint, whatever."
Jackson, still trying to outlive the reputation of his hippie days, couldn't have been happy with that answer. Phil loved Dennis, though, loved the humor he brought to the game.
How would Artest fit in with the Lakers? Well, Artest has a strong work ethic. He's competitive. I think he would fit with Phil and Kobe. And Phil will get his attention. But things could still go awry.
Phil will surely give Artest a book to read. My guess? He'll want him to read my book, "The Show." Ha. Just kidding. Phil doesn't like non-fiction all that much. Maybe he'll give him some Cormac McCarthy. Blood Meridian, maybe. It's about a dangerous world dominated by an evil 7-footer named the Judge, if I recall.

Jon,
I guess I feel that Phil was playing unfairly with Kobe during that early tenure. To me, Kobe was in some trouble when I began writing Mad Game. He was a fearless kid who was encountering a foreign world. I think that Phil made mistakes with Kobe. That's not just my opinion. It's one communicated to me by people who have worked with Phil for a long time and have high regard for him as a coach.
I have no idea how long Phil wants to coach. Obviously, he doesn't include me on his email list. Tex told me Phil came back to win that tenth title. That's at least a three-year project, if not more.
Yes, I think Kurt Rambis will likely get another chance to coach the Lakers someday. You remember, he did a pretty fair job the first time, if only Jerry Buss hadn't decided to trade Eddie Jones, Elden, etc., and sign Rodman in a wild gamble.
Kurt's an important assistant for Phil now. He's made himself that with his hard work.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Roland,

Yeah, I don't feel that Kurt got a fair deal during his tenure as head coach of the Lakers.

By the way, nice reference to Cormac McCarthy.

Roland,

To quote you: "PHIL IS A GREAT F$%$ING COACH." What distinguishes Phil from other coaches in terms of greatness? (Outside of the obvious, such as his record.)

Is it the relationships he forms as a coach? His ability to motivate? He understanding of his opponents? I'd really like to know more.

Jon,
Phil has a variety of attributes, but two main ones, I believe.
1) He has had Tex Winter as his personal teacher, mentor and assistant;
2) Phil has a unique ability to forge a bond with his superstars. His closeness with MJ allowed him to sell the idea of the triangle. And that wasn't some one-time deal. It was a deal struck every day, every night, and it required constant work and subtle negotiation. Tex remains awed by what Phil accomplished in Chicago.
Phil also sees things differently, isn't fearful, is perfectly willing to let things happen and to help his team see the lessons in what occurs.
I've touched on a few things there.
AS for motivation, John Thompson explained that to me years ago when I was writing Georgetown's official championship book. You don't motivate people; you find motivated people to work with, he said.
That's why personnel evaluation is so difficult, yet critical, in sports, especially hoops.
Cheers. I'm off to watch my very motivated daughter play high school basketball.
Years ago, Kobe wrote out a personal note to her and signed it.
Stay true to your dreams, he told her.
And that's the final insight into Kobe. He kept telling me over and over again when he was a young player. I'm not gonna let them break me. I'm gonna stay true to my dreams. I just have to find a way. I don't know how, but i'm gonna find a way.
If nothing else, the guy has found his way.


Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Almost forgot one of the main reasons Dennis Rodman had such a successful tenure with the Bulls. He quickly became close with Tex Winter and considered him a grandfather figure. Great sight on the team bus, conservative Tex sitting with Dennis with all his tattoos and jewelry.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Real nice, Roland.

Thanks.


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