NBA Finals Media Day Highlights: Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and more!
The Lakers and Magic met the talking/typing/recording heads for the annual Finals Media Day this afternoon on the Staples floor, and while there were plenty of people around, it wasn't quite the circus of last year's event. It certainly wasn't the spectacle of, say, Super Bowl Media Day, where star players field marriage proposals.
Sure, there was that security guy from the Jimmy Kimmel Show asking if he could give Luke Walton a hug and dishing with Sasha Vujacic in Spanish (left), but other than that, nothing much out of the ordinary. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Phil Jackson (among other luminaries) spent time at the podium. No big revelations (far as we know, Kobe is still starting, for example) but if nothing else, the time it takes to read gets you that much closer to Thursday's Game 1 tip.
Click below for the highlights.
Q. What does it mean that you lost two games to those guys? Does it mean anything going into The Finals?
PHIL JACKSON: It means we have a great deal of respect for them as far as a team. They played very well down the stretch in both the games to win the two games they played against us. Obviously those are mitigating circumstances; we had different people in the lineup, they had different people in the lineup. It was four months ago, but it certainly gives us a great deal of respect for them.
Q: What keeps you going... In terms of motivation?
PHIL JACKSON: It's really about the momentum of a season. You know, you get caught up in this day‑to‑day life that we have where your schedule is pretty much determined from October until summer. You know, you get onto it, and there's something about it that you learn over a behavior period, I think, of years. I think it's going to be hard to get away from it, personally. I know I've done it twice, and I know one year, the asterisk season, and they didn't start playing until February, and the other year I went to the South Pacific and got away from the basketball game simply by dissolving the presence of NBA ball.
But yeah, it's something that's been in my life for 40 years.
Q. Are you guys preparing for the possibility that Jameer Nelson could play for the Magic during the series?
PHIL JACKSON: We haven't really gotten to that level of personnel, as to the guard personnel, and obviously we're looking at Howard as a power player inside. But we're still identifying it as positions more than we are as individuals. Jameer brings another level of game to their team, but we respect Johnson, also Alston, as players. Someone has got to do their job for them, and Jameer is going to come in and do it if he does. He'll just bring another specific thing to something they do that's an execution skill, and they've got guys that do things specific to their game.
Q. I know you're not going to want to discuss your strategy in detail, but obviously they've been running the video back and forth. Just in general what were you trying to do when you defend them? And apparently it wasn't a spectacular success, so can you just talk about that?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, they have a lot of options in their offense that are look alikes, with the same end result hopefully, that one, they're going to get either a lay up or a power play down low or they're going to get a three point shot at the outside. They have a lot of options in their offense around that.
Confusion is one of the things that you want to eliminate when you get into a series, and there's definitely going to be some confusion in Game 1. You hope you accumulate data and you can kind of go out and start adjusting. But in the first game obviously we made some defensive mistakes. In the second game I thought we did a better job. They hit some really big shots coming down the stretch.
Q. How much did losing to the Celtics push this team this season?
PHIL JACKSON: You know, I think that at any level once you have a taste of what it's like to be here just as a motivating factor, as much as it is just to be standing, just to be left with that feeling of, you know, we're the only ones here and everybody else is home on vacation, and at this particular point with all the tension when you get to this level and don't lose or don't win, and you lose, you go home and you think about it a long time. It's something that is certainly a motivating thing for us. It certainly pushed us.
Q. Kobe has downplayed the idea of the importance of winning a title without Shaq. Do you feel like winning a title as the leader of a team, is that something that's important to him and something that could be special for him?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes, but I think if you take any team, San Antonio, winning without Robinson, David Robinson for Tim Duncan, I think it's just another evolution. It's not specific about the individual; it's about how we made the adjustments to get to the place where we're at. I think that's important, and I think it's important that a person gets a chance to win. I think that's what it is all about.
Q. You kind of alluded to this, obviously Orlando has no Kobe, but with that inside outside game of theirs, are they a little similar to your Shaq Kobe team?
PHIL JACKSON: Their spacing obviously and their dedication to what they want to get accomplished I think is very similar. You know, obviously the three point shot has taken more of a prominent place, I think, in their offense than the early Shaq teams did, although we used the three point effectively with Rice and Fox, Horry and other guys that were three point shooters that were on that team.
This team is really dedicated to three point shooting, and one of the top two or three teams in the league shooting that shot.
Q. Can you talk about obviously you and Fish have been here before, but just you guys adjusting to being in The Finals for the first time last year and also how did you feel when the Celtics got eliminated and the possible rematch died?
KOBE BRYANT: I think everybody here was pretty calm, just ready to roll. We've been through this hoopla last year. I think a lot of it was obviously new to everybody, guys that haven't been there before. This time around just kind of know what to expect, just be ready to go. Didn't really think much about the Celtics being eliminated. We were dealing with our own more with the Houston Rockets. Didn't really have time to kind of sit back and see what was going on in the Eastern Conference at that time
Q. How much have you thought at all about the fact that this might be your last run with Phil, with his future unresolved, whether he's going to go on past this year, especially if you win? And how much do you think it's meant for your career playing for Phil that he had coached Michael and understood, maybe learned some things coaching Michael that's helped him coach you?
KOBE BRYANT: I try not to think too much about it, just try to focus on the task at hand, which was one of the things that he's taught us all, me in particular because I played for him the longest, along with Derek.
I think him having coached Michael probably helped our situation a little bit. He's been around the block before. I'm just honored to be coached by the best coach of all time. It would be a tremendous honor to be on the team that can get him that tenth championship.
Q: Starting with the Olympics, the All Star Game and the regular season, has this been up to this point your most rewarding season as a player?
KOBE BRYANT: I'd say it's possible. It's been a hell of a year, winning a gold medal and making it to The Finals last year. We didn't win but we gained valuable experience. Being on that Olympic team, building the friendships we built there, coming back to this season and having the season that we've had up to this point, it's been very rewarding.
Q. Would all that go to waste if you don't win?
KOBE BRYANT: In my eyes, yeah. This is what I play for all summer. All I thought about was the Olympics and the gold medal; we were able to accomplish that. My next goal is winning the NBA Championship, and we don't want to fall short of that.
Q. How surprised were you that this isn't a Kobe LeBron final? And were you a little disappointed not to have that challenge?
KOBE BRYANT: No, not really, not really. I'm not disappointed at all. I'm just happy to be in this situation. I'm sad for LeBron because he's a good friend of mine, but at the same time I'm happy for Dwight. You just kind of move on and do what you have to do with your ballclub and just go from there.
Q. Post Shaq what's it mean to you to get the Lakers back to a championship level? And do you think in your own mind that you need to win a championship for your legacy without Shaq?
KOBE BRYANT: Not at all. It means nothing. To me it's about winning another one, just because I want to win another one. People think Shaq would have won a championship without me on that team, they're crazy, you know what I'm saying? We needed Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Ron Harper and everybody else, as well. I'm not worried about that at all.
Q: I know it's maybe not so difficult for you anymore, but how as a player do you not treat The Finals differently given the magnitude and everything, even though that's sort of the cliché, that it's the same, you go out and play and all that?
KOBE BRYANT: You prepare. I can't step up my preparation because I prepare as much as I can all the time. The focus is going to be there. At the end of the day it's just basketball. It's just adding all you guys around. It's the same ol', same ol'. If you're willing to deal with the criticism that you guys might write, it's just basketball.
Q. That's why the experience matters so much to have been there before?
BRYANT: Yeah, it's just like the hoopla of this whole situation might have been a little bit different for some of the players on our team last year because it's a whole new thing, just seeing the magnitude of everything. This time around I don't think so. I think we understand that it's a game. It's a game we've been playing for many, many years, and you've got to go out there and do what you do best and leave it all out on the floor.
Q. How much better prepared as a result of that for this year's Finals as a team than you were last year?
PAU GASOL: I think we're in a better place this year overall. I think that our run to the playoffs this year has helped us to be a tougher team. It brought us together as a team, as a group, and it made us really made us appreciate where we are and how hard we worked to get here, and the experience obviously of last year throughout the playoffs and especially losing The Finals I think also made us grow as a team.
Overall I think we're in a good place. We like our chances. Obviously Orlando is playing extremely well, and they deserve and earned a spot in The Finals and a chance to fight for the championship. But obviously we'll contemplate our options and try and figure out what can we do to beat them.
Q. As far as your match up defensively it would appear that you would play some post defense against Dwight and also be responsible for running out in the perimeter some chasing Lewis. How would you describe that as far as it seeming like kind of a difficult role for you?
PAU GASOL: It's going to be a lot of work. It's going to take a big focus on my part to be able to flip the switch every time I change match ups and I change players, coverages. But it's a big challenge, no doubt about it, to guard either player, because they're both really good players and they present so many different looks to you. It's going to be hard, but I look forward to getting it done and being effective against them and helping our team. That's all I want to do.
Q. You guys won 65 games this year and you put the West away early. In the middle of the playoffs was there some sense of, we're not the team we were, and we'd better get it back quick?
PAU GASOL: Well, in the series against Houston it was tough. I think we realized that by showing up we're not just going to win. We're going to have to play extremely hard and give our best to beat a team that they might be shorthanded but they're competing as good as anybody, that's competing extremely hard, especially at their place. We were totally unable to get into those games and give ourselves a chance even, those games in Houston the last two games.
I think that that was kind of a wake up call for us, that we had to change things up and really focus on what we needed to do as a team.
Q. Obviously Game 4 wasn't a real good effort, but Game 6 seemed like you guys did give it an effort and they beat you pretty good anyway. Was that even more humbling?
PAU GASOL: Yeah, I mean, it's playoff basketball, and teams that you face are high quality teams. Even though you give your best effort, sometimes a team is still going to beat you. It's just the way it is. But at least you know inside of you that you gave it yourself and you gave yourself a shot, that you didn't just give it up.
It was two different games, you're right about that, and the mentality was a little different. We were expecting to win that Game 4 easily because Yao went down and we expected them to fold and they didn't. They came even harder than they did before.
It was definitely a learning experience, and that's why I think today we are where we are and we'll learn from it, and hopefully it'll be useful until the end of the playoffs.
Q. What have you guys learned about losing to Boston last year that helped you get back to this point?
PAU GASOL: I think what we learned the most is that you can't just go out there and see what happens, you know, get a feel from The Finals. You've got to be really aggressive and go get it. You've just got to go get it. Don't expect anything, just play hard and hustle and give your best. You just can't expect to see what's going on and see how we get to the halftime and see if we have a chance at the end of the game because we're on the road, and we weren't really aggressive. We weren't like, we've got to win this first game today. That's why we were just trailing pretty much the whole series.
Q. On a daily basis how does Kobe contribute to this team getting tougher this season? I know that was like his mission this summer. How does that happen on a daily basis in practice?
PAU GASOL: Well, he's always pretty vocal, especially now. Now obviously he wants everybody to be focused on what we need to do as a team, as a group, as individuals to have a better chance to win. Obviously he wants to win this as much as anybody, and I think we definitely can count on him doing his part because he's a great leader and great competitor. But we all have to step up and we all have to do our job and play our best and do what we're supposed to do out there.
He's been vocal and he's been doing what he's supposed to do, and it's everybody's turn to do that, too.