Postgame comments from Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher
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Q. Should we call you Dr. Coach Phil Jackson now with this great accomplishment or some other accolade?
PHIL JACKSON: No, it's just fine just the way it is, thank you.
Q. Your team started strong, they stayed strong with the Jazz, then Houston, then Denver and now you've finished strong winning the championship in Orlando. Talk about the strength of yourself and the team.
PHIL JACKSON: We went into the playoffs and we thought that we'd helped ourselves by getting Andrew Bynum back again to give us some depth at the interior part of our game, shot‑blocking, rebounding, size‑wise, and we came into Utah, Utah played us the last game of the season, so we had a look at them. They lost Okur, one of their steady ball players, one of the few three‑point shooters for centers in the league, and it changed up how we were able to play that series a little bit and got ourselves through that series quickly. That was a benefit for us.
Houston was a different story altogether. They were fast, they were very driven, team‑ball play, they did a good job in spacing out the court, getting accomplished what they wanted to do. They had two defenders to throw at Kobe in Artest and Battier, and so they were a really worthy opponent, pushed us to seven games. I thought that really made us the team that we got to be in the playoffs. We understood what we had to get accomplished, and we did the job from that time forward, played good basketball.
Denver was physical and quick. They're an elite team. They played extremely well at the end of the year, and we were able to come back after a 2‑2 start in that series and finish them off.
This obviously was a game we expect tonight, to be honest with you. I thought we'd have to struggle a little bit. We got a run in the second period and were able to get some distance and play our game from then on.
Q. I asked you before the game tonight about the historic aspects of it, and I know you were a bit reluctant to talk about that. Can you take a step back now? You have done something no coach has ever done, won more championships than any coach in NBA history. What does that mean to you? And can you talk about the historical significance of it?
PHIL JACKSON: I can, but I'd like to say that it's really about the players; it's about Kobe Bryant, about Derek Fisher's leadership of the team. I tried to take them through some of the build‑up things that we had to do last year as a basketball club. They came together this year and were self‑motivated, and for a coach that's always a positive sign. When a team is ready, they're aggressive, their learning curve is high, and they wanted to win. I've always felt as a coach you have to push your team, and I told them they had to push themselves. I wasn't at the stage of my life where I could get out and do the things that I had done 10 years ago or 15 years ago to push a team. And they pushed themselves, and I really feel strongly that this is about them.
However, having won ten championships is a remarkable accomplishment, there's no doubt about it. Watching those games clicked down, and a championship of all different forms and fashions, on the road, at home, players that vault themselves into team play is a remarkable thing to have watched.
I think I've always said this before, the journey is what's really important, and it's important for the players and the coaches to watch these kids come together and form a unit and be supportive of each other, and this was no exception, this team.
Q. On a night you passed Red Auerbach, would it be hard for you to not think of your Coach Red Holzman in the days leading up to this? And would you imagine he probably would really enjoy watching you pass the other Red?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, he took a lot of pride in his coach Les Harrison, who coached the Rochester Royals. I was at the Hall of Fame induction at one point for Walt Frazier, and the two of them came over and said, "You know, you're really our grandson. You're his father and I'm his father, so you're really my grandson." Harrison was obviously one of the founders of the NBA and a great basketball coach in his own right.
So there's a legacy that came that direction with me. But I've had a lot of people that have supported me. Tex Winter, obviously, who's back in Portland recovering from a stroke, and obviously my college coach Bill Fitch, who's a big strong supporter of me over the years, have all been very important in my coaching career.
Q. You've never gone this long between championships. Does that make it a little more important, maybe impressive in your book?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, I was in Australia, and the Lakers made a coaching change, Jeannie Buss called me up and asked me to come back and take the team at that particular moment, and I said, "No, I couldn't do that. That's just not fair to the team, ,it's not fair to the players and myself." I said that I'd have to think about it a long time because this team is quite a ways from a championship even though Kobe Bryant always gives you a chance to win.
So over the next two and a half months I spent some time thinking about it and rekindling my energy to come back and coach, but when I came back I didn't anticipate we'd win. I'd be part of it. I thought maybe I'd build the steps to a winning team, but I didn't think I'd be part of it, and this is much quicker than I thought it would happen.
Q. You talked about how it was all about the journey. Your journey with Kobe Bryant has gone a long ways from his being a young player. He talked about it after he won, you grow as a man and you grow as a person. How much have you seen on your journey with him together?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, there was a point in Kobe's first, second year when we sat together and watched tape. I wanted him to understand his impact on the game a little bit and my feeling about his impact on the game. We had a game in Toronto, and he had gotten hooked up with Vince Carter in the middle of the fourth quarter and they kind of exchanged baskets, and I thought it took our team out of their team play, and the game was much harder than it should have been. So I talked to him a little bit about leadership and the quality and his ability to be a leader, and he said, "I'm ready to be a captain right now," and I said, "but no one is ready to follow you." He was 22 at the time. He was a young guy.
In those eight years that have ensued from that period, he's learned how to become a leader in a way in which people want to follow him, and I think that's really important for him to have learned that, because he knew that he had to give to get back in return, and so he's become a giver rather than just a guy that's a demanding leader, and that's been great for him and great to watch.
Q. Along those same lines, would you say that the second quarter was kind of representative of that during that stretch when you pulled away, three assists in that span? Is that kind of what you're talking about there?
PHIL JACKSON: Yes, there was just that little feel there in the game where they were vulnerable and we took advantage of it. Kobe was the thrust that created shots for guys and the opportunities for guys on the floor. That was really our chance, and we said at halftime, we get another opportunity like that, we have this game in hand if we can just crack one more three‑minute span like that and create some turnovers and run‑outs and do it again. Kobe said, "I'll push the guys and I'll find guys if you guys run the court."
PAU GASOL AND LAMAR ODOM
Q. How much does this mean to you, returning from last year, to come to the top and win it all this year?
PAU GASOL: Well, it's a dream. It's a dream come true. The completion of a goal, it feels amazing. It's definitely a victory, it's a triumph that we've been working so hard for, and personally I appreciated so much and I value so much, and it's such a huge accomplishment for so many people that we're just extremely proud of ourselves right now. We're just happy and excited. We're going to go crazy a little bit, and we're looking forward to that. But it's just been so much work that we put into this to make this happen today, and we love each other. We're a great group, we're a great team, and this is amazing.
Q. Lamar, how about you? What does it mean for you to finally win a championship?
LAMAR ODOM: I guess everything. I've known what I wanted to do since I was ten years old, nine years old, and to finally get here and accomplish it is a dream come true.
Q. Talk about your journey from being a kid watching the Olympics in Barcelona in '92 with the Dream Team, and then we've been watching you when you were an 18‑ and 19‑year‑old, and then going through Memphis and now accomplishing this as the first Spanish player winning the championship.
PAU GASOL: Well, the journey is what makes it so special and so beautiful. I had to work really hard throughout my career and started off as a kid in Spain just loving to play basketball, not trying to really become a professional, but I really started to be really good and I was very ambitious and competitive. So I started really, I don't know, becoming a really, really good player.
Then I got to the NBA, and it was really hard, also, the adjustment, and six and a half years in Memphis were tough as a professional, also personally because I don't take losing very tightly and I hate losing and it was affecting my person. But the day that I was traded I couldn't believe it. It was such a beautiful day for me, and then also I think the Lakers were pretty happy with it, too.
LAMAR ODOM: I guess so (laughing).
PAU GASOL: From that point on, it's just been another amazing journey and adventure. To be able to get to this point today is hard to describe and put in small sentences because it's so amazing what we accomplished, it feels so good, and hopefully a lot of people enjoy this.
Q. Last season I know it was a difficult series for you all in Boston. Talk about what you all gained from that experience, and now that you're here and that you've won, talk about what it means that you're maybe able to erase some of the doubts that were put out there about you last year?
LAMAR ODOM: That's exactly what it was, it was an experience, and usually experience makes you better at whatever it is, whether it's on or off the court. We set a goal early in the training camp and that was to win the NBA championship. Every time we came in as a group, we left that group by saying "one, two, three, ring." We set a goal and we attained it.
PAU GASOL: Last year's experience, I think it made us tougher, it made us grow as a team, and we all were hurt by it. We were very disappointed that we lost against Boston. They showed that they were more ready than we were at the time. But it really made us want it even more than we did last year, and it got us to this point. We worked so hard from the beginning as a team and as individuals, too, to be able to be successful in the playoffs at the top level. So it just makes it all the more rewarding, and the way we went through last year, it just makes it so much more worth it.
Q. Knowing that both of you guys have been traded during your career and knowing that those teams didn't want you to now be champions, talk about that.
LAMAR ODOM: First of all, I got traded for Shaq. He got traded for Kwame Brown to the Lakers.
It was a blessing. We were fortunate. Everything happens for a reason. This was the reason. It hurt to ‑‑ I'm not going to lie, it hurt to get traded from Miami and then have to watch them win a championship, but I felt like my time would come. The Lakers got better and better and better, and then we got one of the best players in history in this guy. We knew that we were going to be competing for a championship. We're both fortunate at the end of the day.
Q. Last summer in Beijing Kobe and the U.S. beat you guys in the gold medal game. Ten months later you're together on a podium sharing a championship. What kind of teammate has Kobe been during that run? And what has this meant to the fans back in Spain?
PAU GASOL: Yeah, last summer it was tough. It was kind of weird to go against each other at the Olympics. We had a chance to play each other twice. First time they really kicked our butt, second time we were able to compete better as a team. But yeah, it was tough. Kobe doesn't have any friends on the floor when he's playing against somebody else. That's just the way it is. He's such a great competitor, he wants to win no matter what, no matter who he's playing. It would be the same if it was his brother. He would still try to destroy him, really. That's just the way it is. He wants to win that bad.
He's our leader. I think he's very aggressive on the floor, he carries a lot of weight. He loves to do that. You know, I think as teammates we understand what kind of player he is, what he brings to the table, and we try to complement each other. I think what we've been doing well this year is understanding what our roles were, what our abilities are out there as individuals and make it work as a team. It really worked out well. I think we all understood how to play this game together and to take us to this championship.
Q. Talk about getting ready to celebrate and a parade and all that stuff. And Kobe was saying last year just how tough LA can be, the fans. They still bring up what happened, what happened. Now you don't have to go through that this year.
LAMAR ODOM: Well, they expect to win. They're spoiled a little bit. That's the tradition of the franchise is to win. That's what makes us better.
We'll have a good time away from basketball and then it'll be time to get back to work. It's June?
PAU GASOL: 14th.
LAMAR ODOM: In October we'll try to get right back at it to try to get here again. The focus is there, our town expects it, and that's what pushes us, helps us strive for perfection.
Q. Before the game I was talking to you about what it would mean and it became a little bit emotional for you, you had tears in your eyes talking about it. Now that it's happened, can you talk about what this means in your heart? You've had struggles, personal struggles and bad luck struggles and now you're a champion. What does this mean?
LAMAR ODOM: Going through ups and downs and experiencing death and birth and everything, that's a part of life. Everyone goes through it. I never felt bad for myself or asked the question "why me?" It was just my story. I wouldn't be Lamar Joseph Odom if it didn't happen to me.
I've always seen this coming, my day. When I was going to say I was NBA champion. It's finally here, and it's great. It's overwhelming. I felt it as we were coming in today. I knew we were going to win this game.
Q. Talk about the maturation process for Kobe Bryant. You've been with him from draft day probably. Has he really become a leader? Phil was talking earlier about now people are following him as opposed to in the past. What did you see?
DEREK FISHER: He's grown. He's grown up. He's doing everything that we could ever ask him to do in terms of leading the team and performance on the court, during the games, in practice, and like you stated, trying to be the type of guy that guys will follow as opposed to just dominating performances by himself and then expecting everyone to catch up to him. He's really done an unbelievable job getting everybody to believe and buy into what we were trying to do this year.
Last year we almost did it, but we had to wait a long year. We're back here now, and Kobe is at the top of the list of all people that deserves a lot of the credit for what's going on right now.
Q. What's the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's team?
DEREK FISHER: I think last year's experiences helped us a lot this year, the change in our team last season with the trade to get Trevor Ariza, the trade to get Pau Gasol, those are things that happened during the season, and even though we had a lot of success, obviously making it to The Finals, I don't know if we really knew who we were. Even though we were in The Finals against the Celtics, I don't know, when we were put in a position where we had to dig deep, find out who you are and what you're made of, I don't know if we knew each other that way. From training camp this year, to experience every practice, every bus ride, every plane ride with the same group, I think that really separated us from last season's team to this year's team.
Q. Tell us about your faith, how it's kept you strong when you were seemingly struggling in the beginning, and then to see these beautiful rainbow three‑pointers just drop through the net.
DEREK FISHER: Yeah, a lot of guys in our league are guys that are made strong and are faithful guys, regardless of what their religious beliefs are. There are a lot of guys in our league that don't necessarily talk about it, don't speak of it, but are really strong in their faith. That's how a lot of us got here and how we've stayed here is because we've always believed in a higher power and something that was stronger than us that has allowed us to be successful in the position that we're in, to provide for our families. When we've all gone through the individual struggles, Lamar sitting up here, to lose a child, that's struggle. I guarantee you it's because of his faith, something higher than him, something stronger than him that has allowed him to continue to believe that life is going to be okay.
The same goes for me. When things are down, things are bad, there has to be something that you look to to want to believe that it's going to be better tomorrow. For me that's always been my faith. That's the way I was raised. I believe in the Lord, and I don't necessarily throw it out there all the time, but it's a big part of my life.
Q. Now that the battle is over, how great is the shout that is on the inside of you, the jubilation?
DEREK FISHER: Hard to put into words because it's a team sport, so as great as you feel individually, and you want to shout to the world about how you feel and what you think and what you did, it's really about the accomplishments of this entire team, especially on a night like tonight. The focus belongs on the whole group. It's great to see that box not just be Kobe or not just be Phil on the front, to have our entire team on the front of that box. That's what this has been all about all year.
Q. Kobe talked about it, Pau and Lamar, the closeness of this team. Talk about where this championship ranks for you also.
DEREK FISHER: Yeah, whatever you want to call it, camaraderie, chemistry, closeness, guys that are just enjoying being around each other, playing with each other, that's a big part of what we've done. It was a long season to get back to this point to try and be patient enough to wait to have this opportunity to be champions again. A lot of it was because of how close we were as a group, and I think losing in The Finals last year is what ultimately kind of brought us really close together because we all were in that boat together.
Q. Was this group closer than your other championship teams?
DEREK FISHER: Yeah, I think we were closer because ‑‑ this team is closer because of the combination of guys in terms of their ages and where they are in their careers at this point. Teams that we were on before with guys like Brian Shaw and Robert Horry and Rick Fox and A.C. Green and Glen Rice, you're talking about guys that were 30, married, families, there was no real need for guys to be 20‑something and hanging out and going to dinner together. That's not what middle‑aged guys do. We don't kick it like that, you know?
You know, with these guys, everybody being early to mid 20s, guys that are still trying to make their spot in this league, earn their contract situation, there was a willingness to learn and be around me, to be around Kobe, to be around other people that they could learn from, listen to. It's just a special group. I mean, I think that's why you saw the emotion that you saw tonight. We didn't act like we expected this to happen. I mean, we really celebrated like we didn't know this was coming. It's great. It's great.
Q. Take us back to after you guys lost in Boston, getting on the bus. What happened on the bus on the way out of the Garden and just the plane ride? What was going through you guys' minds as things progressively got worse as the night went on?
DEREK FISHER: Yeah, in combination with the emotions obviously of losing in The Finals and having our season be over the way it was, to then leave that arena after really having a tough time in the locker room, get on the bus and the fans on the streets were going crazy, as most cities do. A lot of people approached the bus, throwing rocks at the bus, shaking the bus. At one point we thought a couple windows were going to crack. I mean, it was rough.
We were fortunate to get out of that without obviously anybody being injured on our side, but also there wasn't anybody that was injured by the bus or that got hit or anything, and that's the most important part.
So once we got back to the hotel that particular night, it was interesting, even though we were really obviously disappointed and angry about what happened, there was almost a shift right at that point to what is it going to take for us to actually do it. We didn't really sit around the hotel that night, we sat in the lobby of our hotel in the lounge, and we all just kind of talked. At that moment talking about what is it that we're going to have to do to get this done.
That's what I remember the most. The plane ride was long, arduous, painful, but I think it's definitely what set this year in motion.
Q. How much did you guys talk about The Finals last year and use that as motivation this time around?
DEREK FISHER: We didn't talk about it in a day‑to‑day type of fashion, but there were just certain times, certain experiences, certain games where it came up. There was one regular season game in Washington, D.C., against the Wizards where we had a big lead and allowed the Wizards to come back and we almost lost on a Caron Butler three‑pointer, and after that game we talked about the fact that how dare us lose a game we're leading by 24 points on our home court in The Finals and allow a team to come back and beat us, possibly losing the championship at that point. Instead of going 2‑2 it's 3‑1. How dare us be lackadaisical in a regular season game and do the same thing that cost us the championship the year before.
So it came up in certain situations like that, and it was definitely a very poignant, obvious reminder for a lot of guys, what our purpose was this year.
Q. How big this trophy for the fans of the Lakers? How could you describe that? It's the 15th trophy, but we all know that every arena you go, there's always Laker fans all over. How big is this trophy for them?
DEREK FISHER: I think it's humongous. Even though this is the 15th title and the team has been to The Finals 30 times, they're the most spoiled fans probably in basketball. But there's just a high level of expectation and excitement when teams win a championship.
For us, that's a big part of the enjoyment is to see the fans in an arena like tonight, when they travel during the regular season, to see the fans support us, and obviously when we get back to Los Angeles tomorrow, it's going to be unbelievably enthusiastic and exciting.
One thing I will say, though, hopefully tonight it hasn't already happened, but in terms of the way people celebrate or choose to be enthusiastic about what we've done here tonight, rioting, turning over cars, throwing bottles, destroying property, that's not the way ‑‑ when we go out and play and we feel like we're representing the city of LA and we're representing our fans, there's a certain way we feel like we owe them in terms of the support they give us, so we have to do things a certain way. So for fans, for anybody still watching, if you're not outside causing problems already, I mean, honor this the right way. We've done this for us, for you, for the city, for southern California, for all Laker fans around the world, and there's a certain way that you should celebrate. There's a certain way when you win, a certain amount of class, a certain amount of dignity that you should carry, same as when you lose. But we won tonight, so let's not make it a negative situation with craziness and foolishness.
Q. Can you talk about Coach Jackson. What makes him so special that he's got ten rings?
DEREK FISHER: I guess the best way to sum it up would just be that Phil's belief in his players I think far outweighs any other coach that I've played for in terms of his willingness to allow the players to be players and make the plays. I think there are a lot of coaches that ‑‑ I've never coached before so I don't want to say overcoached or undercoached or over‑whatever, but his willingness to allow things to happen and develop and grow and mature, there are not a lot of coaches in the playoffs and Finals when everything is on the line that will still be playing 9, 10, 11 guys in the rotation, but that's all about the fact that it's everybody on the box in terms of winning the championship. You don't just play seven people and then the other people just sitting over there and feeling like they're not involved or not a part of what's going on. I don't know if there are a lot of coaches out there, if any, that trust that he and his staff have done the things in practice every day all season that when the pressure is at its highest point, regardless of who he puts in the game, they're going to get the job done. I think that's what separates him from everybody.
Q. Do you see this team being capable of winning more rings in the coming years?
DEREK FISHER: I'm surprised you asked. I've never seen you before, but I'm going to remember you now when you put the pressure on me like that (laughter).
We obviously have guys that are free agents that it's going to be important to re‑sign in order to start thinking about the future and what this team can accomplish going forward.
You know, it's easy to shy away from the expectations, but at the point in my career where I am, why run away from it? We've won a championship tonight, and we're going to enjoy this one and celebrate like we have. But as athletes and competitors you always think about what can you accomplish next. We'll see what happens, but definitely when we start training camp next season and we have our ring ceremony at Staples Center the first game of the regular season, our first home game, all thoughts will be on winning another championship. That's what our season will be about next season, and that just comes with the business.