Philapalooza: PJ talks to the media
We'll have some video later in the afternoon, but in the meantime you can kill the rest of your Friday with some quotes from Phil Jackson, who met with the media in El Segundo this afternoon ahead of Monday's media day. Clean-shaven and (relatively) spry, PJ seemed eager to get going on what looks to be an interesting season. Not that he was dancing a jig or anything, but that's not really how he rolls.
You can watch casually once the film is up ... until then, we'll all have to make do with the printed word. A lot of ground is covered, but given the serious jones for anything meaty, I figure you can absorb it. Some excerpts:
On upcoming season:
"We're excited about our year. A lot of the same players back again. There haven't been a whole lot of changes. Obviously Andrew (Bynum) coming back is a change, is a difference. We think that we're healthy coming into this training camp. Obviously we have some things that are going on -- Luke is still recovering a little bit from an operation, he'll be a little slow -- but for the most part we're relatively healthy, as opposed to last year, when we had players who couldn't compete right away. We think some of our players have played probably a little too much basketball this summer, with Kobe and Pau (at the Olympics), so we'll generate a camp around their limited work, at least this first week."
On Kobe's deciding against surgery on the torn ligament in his pinkie finger:
"I think it was a good idea. Regardless of the correction that might have been done by the surgery, he's still susceptible (to injury). I don't think there's any more of a risk than there would be if he had surgery, then got his finger caught in a jersey again. There's the same risk factor. There's probably going to be a little less strength there, or whatever, but he's going to be fine. He's played all summer with it. I wasn't happy with the way he shot the ball particularly, but I think he's adjusted to all that."
"...Just looking at Andrew, he seems great, just to see him... He's still just in the playground stage here, but we'll see if he can get to that level where you compete in every moment you're on the floor. You're working and you're doing the things you have to do every moment. That's something Andrew was just getting a hold of when he was injured last year. We need to get him back to that space sometime, hopefully in this month..."
"...We've seen Andrew play about 20 games in three seasons. That's about it. He played, obviously, more games than that last year, but he reached a certain potential point where we saw a light go on where he reached an idea that "This is how I have to play to be competitive." What I'm going to ask Andrew to do in this offense is to rebound offensively, to set picks and to be a pivotal point in our offense. I'm not asking him to be a one-on-one scorer, I'm not asking him to get a lot of points, but this is a guy that's going to shore up the defense, which I think is the important aspect, rebound, which I think is the second most important thing in our offense, and to be a person who can facilitate and help our offense out.
That means receptions off screen and rolls that he was getting last year, the lobs he was getting last year, some offensive moves that he gets if he catches the ball on the move. Some things like that I think are important for our team to have, that kind of outlet. We know Pau is a different animal on the post. He's more of a polished scorer down there. To adjust the two of them on the floor at the same time and Lamar at a wing spot is going to be our situation. It's going to be our situation, our goal at training camp to figure out how to do that."
On his health:
"I'm feeling fine. I had a good summer."
On whether or not the guys have stopped thinking about the end of the Boston series:
"I don't think we've forgotten about it, let alone not thinking about it. Jeannie made me watch- what do you call those things ESPN runs in the summertime? They have a big ceremony down at Nokia? The ESPYs. She made me watch that when I got back from Montana just to spite me, and make me have to see those guys up there... There's still a little bit of angst and anger there (about the series, among the players and him).
On how PT will be distributed, and the meshing of the three bigs:
"I think there's going to have to be an understanding on this team that there's going to be personnel that are going to be better off against some teams and some opponents and some styles and ways that we're going to have to play. Whether we have a small team like a Golden State and the rest are all small forwards out there playing, the guys are going to have to adjust and sacrifice to meet the demands game by game. But we're going to have, potentially, a very large, tall, lanky, strong front line. If they can play defense together, they could be a very formidable opponent to score against.
Offensively, how we get those guys together and do that with the size they have and the abilities they have as starters, that's going to be interesting to see, and a big challenge for our coaching staff."
On entering the season as favorites:
"I don't think it's going to affect them. I think they know they failed in the Finals last year, I think they know that they've got a game that they can play. But those are players that may not be on the floor all the time together this year, so they've got to make adjustments. They know it's a curious training camp for them, one where we have to figure some things out before we know how we'll go into the regular season. I think they're ready to come in and work. I like their work ethic."
Are you excited at the prospect of having that large front line? Is it something you thought about this summer a lot?
"That's a word I don't use very often anymore, excited. I'm looking forward to seeing how they play. Lamar has to make an adjustment. He's had an advantage at power forward the last couple seasons, especially playing power forward in a guard slot, out there offensively. He's going to have to make some adjustments and we'll see how he does that. Pau's got a (different) role to play on the floor with Andrew. He's got to face the basket a little more, and play a more high post role... We've got some adjustments to make as a team, and offensively we have adjustments to make, too."
- Says they're still a team on the young side, with very veteran leadership. But in Jordan Farmar, Bynum, Trevor Ariza, and Sasha Vujacic, there are still some core players that are definitely young, growing players. Lots of speed, energy, etc. But overall, the peach fuzz is off the team.
- PJ will look to moderate Kobe's minutes as much as possible. 35 minutes is what he sees a star player like that as needing to remain in the flow of things. 38 to 40 "is getting to be a little too much at this time."
- Olympics: Impressed with the demeanor of the team, and Kobe's leadership. Not so much Kobe's shooting, but his leadership and defense.
I asked him about last year, and what a difference a year makes. Is it something he ever thinks about? How much things have changed? (He answers, without addressing Kobe specifically.)
"There's always those little issues with basketball teams. Always someone's coming up for a contract, someone's got a free agency (situation) sitting on their table. There's always a little level of tension, and players have to play knowing they have to conform to a team. A "we" issue, not a "me" issue. Basketball business goes right against basketball team. They just fight against each other."
- Not too worried about Bynum's contract affecting his play, though "maybe some of the people around him I'm concerned about." But economically, PJ believes Bynum's comfort in knowing he has a big future professionally (and therefore financially) means the extension talks won't impact his performance.
On Ariza, and his role on the team:
"I don't hesitate to say that if this team doesn't work out the way I want it to, Trevor may be a starting player, in that first five. I may just insert him and convince Lamar to come off the bench if I feel that's better for the team and we don't feel as comfortable on the floor as I'd like us to feel. That's the role I see Trevor playing for us. I think he's going to be a person who does things defensively and offensively for us that are going to be big plusses."
Is that Plan B behind Lamar starting in that large front court?
"Yeah. I have to give that an opportunity. They deserve an opportunity to see if they can play (together)."
- On the odd chance there is any confusion, Pau will be the four, Bynum the five, due to Gasol's superior face up game combined with his shooting range and mobility. But "they'll have to have interchangeable roles a lot of times in our offense and defense."
- First salvo at Vlad: "Vladdy's not come out and played with these guys at all, because he's afraid he might get hurt. So we're saving for training camp, in hopes he doesn't," Jackson said smiling. He did say Radmanovic looked good, is in good shape, and has "the same jocular nature."
- Referenced Scott Williams and Stacey King as two bigs he had playing together, like Bynum and Gasol, though those two were backups, not starters.
- PJ called Portland a potential team to make a move in the conference. The Hornets helped themselves with Posey, but losing Pargo will hurt. He mentioned Houston as a good challenger if healthy, and Dallas and Phoenix as "the two interesting teams to see how they come out of the gate and play."
- Questions that need answering through camp and into the early season: How LO will respond to being played by SFs? Pau playing defense in space away from the basket? Bynum's ability to get up and down the floor?
On adjustment of playing time- more of a concern for starters, or players in the rotation (Luke, Vlad, etc.) who played more last season but could see reduced time in '08-'09:
"I think it might involve all guys having to sacrifice minutes because of the depth of this team. There's nine or ten guys that should be playing, and the ten man rotation really limits a team to two functioning units out there on the floor, and this team could very well play with two units on the floor in the first part of the season. That does take some time away from players, and they have to adjust to it. But in the long run, I think it saves a team a lot of mileage. It did last year for us."
"...I think he's moving really well, but his shot hasn't been there (like it was). He was really an exceptional shooter from distance, especially for a big guy... Right now he still hasn't made the adjustment to his new legs, his new spring, his new ability. That'll take some time in training camp, but he certainly looks like he's back and ready to play."
- Walton will be starting the season behind, which could hurt him with PT, Vlad needs to show more consistency than he did last year, and sustain the good. Ariza didn't really have a chance to integrate himself fully. The small forward spot is definitely interesting, he said.
On the "soft" label thrown at the team over the summer, and how he'd define it:
"We know that we weren't a muscular, physical team, but we were able to where we did by finesse and speed and the abilities we had. I was always impressed with our ability to be resilient. As resilient as they were. But it was noticeable in the last series, in the last game, that they came out with one specific purpose, and that was to stick us in the basket. To go down and go to the basket and get what they wanted accomplished on the boards or in the lane. It affected us. It left a sour taste in our mouths over the summer."
So would you say that's accurate? That you were a "soft" team?
"You don't get to where we are by being a soft team, but Boston was tougher than we were in the last game. They got it, they deserved it."