Why Phil Jackson Would Be a Better Coach for the Miami Heat Than Pat Riley

It is All About the Zen

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on June 16th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

With respect to current Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, after the Heat loss in the NBA Finals, there are calls in the media for Pat Riley to take back the coaching reins. If Spoelstra is going to be replaced, Riley should stay where he is and he should do whatever it takes to bring in the Zen Master.

For years many critics of Phil Jackson pointed to the fact that he coached great players such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and used that to minimize his accomplishments as a coach and question how good he was. Pat Riley coached a few good players himself in Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, James Worthy, Dwyane Wade and Patrick Ewing and yet Riley seemed to dodge the, “you were successful because of who you coached charge” to the level extolled upon Jackson.

Upon further review we see that whereas none of Jackson’s players won a title prior to his arrival, (talked about in more detail here), it was Riley’s Lakers who had won a championship before he arrived. Further, Riley lost in the playoffs to lower seeds several years in a row as head coach of the Miami Heat, including losing as a number one seed to a number eight, before he quit just before the 2003-4 season.

If a superstar player had a stretch that bad in the playoffs the media would suggest that it is and should be an indelible part of the player’s legacy. And so it should be with coach Riley.

However, many in the media have always liked Riley more than Jackson. Further, they conveniently leave out certain facts about the 2006 Miami Heat championship team that Riley coached after the Machiavellian maneuver he employed to replace coach Stan Van Gundy.

Riley lovers such ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Skip Bayless have repeatedly stated that Riley brought that Heat team over the top and that Stan Van could not have coached the team to a championship. Lets remember that Van Gundy brought the Heat to the conference finals in 2005.

What Bayless and Kornheiser leave out when they say Riley made the difference between the Heat losing in game seven of the conference finals in 05 and winning in 06 are two key facts.

  • One, Shaq was healthier in 06 than he was in 05. Maybe you can dismiss that one as “The Daddy” was already past his prime and it was D. Wade’s team.
  • Two, Bayless fawns over Wade’s game. Understandable, the man has skills and is clutch. Okay, in that 2005 conference finals, Wade got hurt and missed game 6, and played hobbled in game 7, and they still almost won this series!

When comparing Riley to Van Gundy and who could have done what with which team, don’t you think its fair to bring up those little tidbits? With a healthy Wade (and Shaq) the Heat beat Detroit, without a healthy Wade, the Heat do not win in 2006.

Back to the present. The biggest issue facing today’s Heat is the mind of Lebron James. Clearly he has the talent. Since the end of this year’s finals on Sunday there have been fair comparisons of Lebron to baseball’s Alex Rodriguez and what he went through trying to win a World Series with the New York Yankees.

Further, the calls for Lebron to see a sports psychologist, I think is a good idea. Despite what I said about Riley above, I do think he is a great coach, but he requires players with a thick skin who are on the same page and can withstand and thrive under his intensity. Riley is old school and I don’t think he is the man for the psychological mess Lebron appears to be. Further, James already gets fast break, “showtime” style basketball. It is when the game slows down and is in the half court that he needs help.

Contrary to Riley, the Zen Master, with his books, movies, meditations and alternative approach is what might help heal Lebron off the court and Jackson’s triangle, share and move without the ball offense, might be the thing that redeems him on it.

Jackson has led tormented superstars to the promised land three times. Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, and Kobe a second time after Shaq and Jackson left the Lakers and they fell off the map and failed to make the playoffs. It is a road Jackson has traveled and succeeded on over and over again, more so than Riley.

When they win, Pat still gets the credit for being the executive that brought all the talent together and for having the ego strength to bring in Jackson. For all the unrest in Heat land right now, imagine the instant calm that would ensue if it were announced that Phil Jackson was putting his fishing rod down and taking his Zen to South Beach.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

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Jeff Chadiha Said What to Jim Rome About Phil Jackson?

The Zen Master Can’t Motivate and Just Rolls the Ball Out?

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 8th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

So I’m watching the ESPN show, “Jim Rome is Burning”, and I’m about to doze off when Jeff Chadiha says some of the most ill-informed things about Phil Jackson I have ever heard. How a coach can win a record eleven NBA championships and still be this underrated by some is astonishing.In response to the Los Angeles Lakers being down 0-2 to the Dallas Maverick Chadiha, on Friday, said this, “There in a place that is not very good when you have Phil Jackson as your head coach. Things are falling apart, there are trust issues, there are chemistry issues — He’s not the guy you want on your sideline because he is more of a let the veterans work it out, let my leaders take charge.”

Now down 0-3, odds are the Lakers will lose this series but are you kidding me with this? Lets look at Phil Jackson’s coaching career . When Jackson took over in Chicago, Scottie Pippin was not a veteran and was considered soft. Jackson had to convince Jordan to trust the triangle offense and allegedly there were all kinds of trust and chemistry issues between Jordan and his teammates, as is written in the book, “Jordan Rules”. The Bulls overcame the bad boys in Detroit and won two tittles. Then down 0-2 to the New York Knicks in 1993 they came back to win in six games to make it their first three-peat.

When Jordan retired the first time, it was supposed to be open season on the Bulls. All of the Jackson haters (I’m guessing you too Chadiha?) were salivating about how he and the Bulls were going to be exposed.

Except a funny thing happened on the road to humiliation, they won two fewer games during the regular season than they did the year before with Jordan. They lost in-game seven on a phantom foul call to the New York Knicks in the playoffs.

Had Jackson quit when Jordan retired and someone else came in and led the Bulls to that identical season you can bet that coach would have won coach of the year and we would have heard how impressive that was.

The Bulls second three-peat: If Jordan’s first year back after retirement was his true rookie year he would not have gone down as arguably the greatest of all-time. He still would be great but his athleticism was clearly diminished. Jackson coached a new cast of characters to another three-peat. He tamed Dennis Rodman (enough) and kept his team focused to win a regular season record-breaking 72 games.

Back to the Rome/ Chadiha interview — When Jim Rome says to Chadiha, “I thought the guy (Jackson) was a brilliant motivator — ” Chadiha looks at Rome as if to say “Child please” and responds with, “He’s a front-runner — ”

Jackson’s third three-peat: Now with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The year before Jackson’s arrival, the Lakers got swept out of the playoffs by San Antonio. The year before that they got swept out of the playoffs by Utah. Kobe was not yet the superstar he thought he was but would later become. The historic soap opera and battle for alpha dog supremacy between Shaq and Bryant was underway and threatening to break up the dynasty before it had a chance to begin.

It is safe to say there was trust and chemistry issues galore Mr. Chadiha. Issues that would have split up the team if not for the Zen Master leading them to a championship in his first season. PJ motivated Shaq to play defense like we had never seen him play it before and got Kobe to defer to Shaq.

Continuing with Rome when he asks Chadiha, “What are you saying that he just rolls the ball out?” Chadiha’s response, “Basically, yeah that is what he does — but when it comes to motivating people when times are down he is not your guy.”

After a year out of coaching, PJ returns to the Lakers who are now a team in a state of flux. Shaq is gone and the Lakers did not make the playoffs in Jackson’s absence. Not exactly a front running situation.

Despite writing a tell all book that hung Kobe out to dry, Bryant welcomed Phil back with open arms because he knew the dude could coach! This team clearly had work to do and similar to the salivation the Jackson haters had after Jordan retired that first time, people were lining up to see Jackson fail.

This time winning didn’t come right away. On the journey back to winning championships Jackson would have to:

  • Integrate a rookie out of high school named Andrew Bynum.
  • He would have to repair trust issues and build Bynum up after a camera/cell phone caught Kobe Bryant in public complaining that the Lakers didn’t trade Bynum for Jason Kidd.
  • Jackson had to integrate foreign plays such as Sasha Vujacic, and Vladamir Radmanovic.

Further, there was another rookie named Trevor Ariza, the acquisition of Pau Gasol and he had to get key veteran Lamar Odom to accept losing his starting role to come off the bench.

For money reasons, budding star Ariza was let go and the enigmatic Ron Artest was brought in. No matter, Jackson coached them to another championship with both players.

If you look at the state of Jackson’s teams before and after he arrived and the fact that they never won a championship or even made it to an NBA finals without him, his contributions should be unquestioned.

The loyalty he inspires from stars and role players alike provide further testimony to things like chemistry, trust and motivation. The man has more championships as a head coach then Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan, and Don Nelson combined.

Pat Riley took over a Laker team that already won a championship. Gregg Popovich had a dynasty in San Antonio but never was able to repeat or make it back to the championship the following season. Doc Rivers coaching record prior to Danny Ainge making a great trade for Ray Allen, being gifted Garnett from his friend in Minnesota Kevin McHale, drafting Rajon Rondo and adding all of this to Paul Pierce, was average at best, Jerry Sloan, never won with Stockton and Malone.

Lets face it Jeff, for whatever reason, Jackson could never satisfy the haters. Had he won with Stockton and Malone, or the current big three (really four) in Boston, or back when Seattle had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the Ewing led Knicks, Dwight Howard in Orlando — You would always write off his winning and attribute it to the talent. Well guess what, it does take talent to win in the NBA yo.

But prior to Michael Jordan only once in the history of the NBA had a team with the leading scorer won a championship. Jackson motivates, he gets the most out of his players and just because he doesn’t call time outs when he is supposed to doesn’t mean he is not coaching.

Criticizing Jackson after an epic record-setting run of 11 championships and for not coming back from 0-2 after losing the first two at home (something only done three times) would be like criticizing Joe DiMaggio after game fifty-seven when his hitting streak ended.

PS And just for good measure, Jackson won a championship in the Continental Basketball Association back in 1984. I guess he must have had the Michael Jordan of the CBA on his team and just rolled out the ball for him too.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Shaquille O’Neal Is Wrong About Dwight Howard

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Shaquille O’Neal has an affinity for nicknames, “The Big Aristotle”, “The Big Shamrock”, etc… Here is another one:  “The Big Can’t Get Over It”.  Okay it is not as eloquent as the ones he gives himself, but it is long past time he got past his issues with Dwight Howard. 

shaqhowardApparently, Howard’s big offenses to Shaq were:  taking the nickname “Superman”.   (Like Shaq was the first to ever use that one.)  And the media comparing Howard to Shaq, or calling him the next great center. 

For these two offenses Shaq rarely misses an opportunity to put Howard down.  My words to Shaq are:  You are an all-time great stop being so insecure.  If Michael Jordan reacted every time a player was called the next MJ, he’d be hating all the time.  Michael is apparently a lot more secure in himself and his place in history than you are.

Shaq’s most recent salvo is that Howard signed with the Houston Rockets because he couldn’t handle the lights of Los Angeles.  Ridiculous.  Here are valid reasons for leaving that have nothing to do with location:

  • L.A. has a coach in Mike D’Antoni, that Howard believes, doesn’t maximize his game.
  • He signed with a team, Houston, that has a coach, Kevin McHale, and hall of fame mentor, Hakeen Olajuwon, he feels better suits him.
  • Chemistry issues with the Lakers star player, and professed, “man”, Kobe Bryant.  (Shaq can you relate to issues with Kobe?)
  • Houston is also a much younger team and bettered suited to make a run at championships for years to come.
  • The Lakers are an aging, cash strapped, over the salary cap, team.

 

These are factors that would have a lot stars seeking greener pastures.

Shaq, you say everybody wants to be in L.A., but Howard never really professed that.  When he was in Orlando, he preferred a trade to the Brooklyn Nets.  Not exactly dim lights in New York.  On being traded, Howard always stated he would play out his year and see what happens in free agency, regardless of the team he was traded to.

Ironically, if the Lakers did what most thought they should, and hired the same coach that carried you to three championships, Phil Jackson, Howard likely would have stayed.

Bottom line Shaq, logic doesn’t support your conclusions.  I’m a fan of yours.  And as a fan, as big as you are, I can tell you, your attacks on Howard make you look small.  And  they’re getting old and tired.   Give it rest.  It should be beneath you.

 

Correcting ESPN’s Colin Cowherd Again

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It this week’s edition of correcting ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, the subject is Los Angeles Laker coach Mike D’Antoni.  On his radio show simulcast on ESPNU, this past Monday, the Herd wanted to make the case that going forward D’Antoni was the wrong coach for Lakers.  And more specifically he’s wrong for Laker center and now free agent Dwight Howard.

This is a fair and debatable topic that I have no problem with.  I can understand both points of view.  In fact I recently wrote a blog that the Lakers, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder might be haunted by not hiring Phil Jackson.

durantanthonyI would also take Kevin Durant over Carmelo Anthony.  Doesn’t mean Anthony isn’t a great basketball player.

Where the Herd went wrong is when he went all “shock jock” and started talking out of his rear-end slamming D’Antoni.  His over the top rant was that D’Antoni always under performed as a head coach in the playoffs.

This is absurd.  Two minutes of fact checking disproves this.  There is no reason for The Herd not to know this.

So let’s look at the facts.  Mike D’Antoni inherited a terrible team, mid-season, when he was the coach of the Phoenix Suns.  He was 20-41 in 2003/04.  He went on to coach for four full seasons.  How did the Suns do in the playoffs in those years?

  • 2004-5:   They lose in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. (Who beat the defending champion Detroit Pistons.)
  • 2005-6: They lose in the Western Conference Finals to the higher seeded Dallas Mavericks.
  • 2006-7: They lose in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.   This is the year where Robert Horry gave Steve Nash a cheap shot in front of Phoenix’s bench that led to some suspensions of player’s like Amar’e Stoudemire.  The Spurs also won a game in this series thanks to a Tim Duncan three-point shot sending the game into O.T.  Not exactly a failure of strategy.
  • 2007-8:  Lost in the first round to the higher seeded San Antonio Spurs.
nash-horry

Robert Horry hip checks Steve Nash in the closing seconds of a playoff game where the outcome was no longer in doubt.

Saying D’Antoni always under performed because he primarily couldn’t get by Gregg Popovich and the Spurs dynasty is like saying Pat Riley under performed as head coach of the Knicks because NY couldn’t get past Phil Jackson and the Bulls.

Which series, specifically, did D’Antoni under perform Herd?  Hhmm??

Yes Colin, D’Antoni did have two-time MVP Steve Nash.  But not many would make the argument he was the best player in the game.  In fact many made the argument that Shaquille O’Neal deserved the MVP  one of those years.  But no doubt Nash was great.  You know who else is great Herd?  Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

In New York, D’Antoni inherited a team that was in massive salary cap dump mode to clear room to try to lure Lebron James as a free agent.  Between roster turnover, injury, and the lockout, it is hard to slam D’Antoni for his one first round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics while in NY.

In L.A… He is hired after the start of the season.  So no training camp.  Pau Gasol misses significant time due to injury.  Steve Nash misses time due to injury including some playoff games.  Kobe Bryant misses the playoffs.  Dwight Howard isn’t fully recovered from back surgery, and tears a labrum in his shoulder.  Metta-World-Peace has knee surgery during the season.

This is just part of the Laker’s laundry list of things that went wrong this season.  And as a seventh seed they lose to D’Antoni’s old nemesis the San Antonio Spurs.  Is this a clear example of under performing?

Whether it is Phil Jackson or anyone else Herd, if you want to make a case for a different coach make it.  But don’t slander a coach and misrepresent the record.  You might be able to make a point about a D’Antoni team under performing in a season or two but always? Not even close.

And as I have stated when talking about your assaults on Michael Jordan when deifying Lebron James, you have three hours, five days a week, so you do have time to get stories right.

The reasons he doesn’t?   The choices are:

  • He and his production team are incompetent.
  • They’re negligent.
  • He has a vendetta against D’Antoni.
  • He is a shock jock for ratings and doesn’t care whose career or reputation he might hurt.

You’re good enough without this Colin.  You should clean it up.

The Curse Of The Zen Master

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If you had an NFL running back who rushed for a 1,000 yards but could get one who repeatedly rushed for 1,500, and you wouldn’t have to give up any other player, would you?  How about letting go a MLB 25 home run guy for a 40 plus guy?  If money wasn’t an issue, these are pretty easy calls right?

Yet after the 2012 NBA season a few franchises seemingly had no problem bypassing arguably the greatest coach in its sports history, Phil Jackson.  Let’s look at three teams that coulda shoulda  went Zen.

The Los Angeles Lakers – I have been a fan of current Laker Coach Mike D’Antoni.  Loved him in Phoenix  with the Suns, and thought he got a raw deal in New York with the Knicks.  If not for a cheap shot by San Antonio Spur Robert Horry against Steve Nash, that instigated Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw  to come off the bench and get suspended, I think Phoenix beat he Spurs in that 2007 playoff series.  They’re then the favorite to win the championship.  That win would have put to rest whether D’Antoni’s style of play can win it all.

PhiljacksonKoThat aside, his style was clearly not the best match for this Laker team.  Not with their bigs, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.  And not with their star player, Kobe Bryant, being so comfortable with Phil Jackson and his triangle offense.  Which oh by the way is better suited to star center Dwight Howard who they hope to retain as a free agent.

True the Lakers were hit hard by injury, but they clearly under performed this season and had chemistry issues. This forced Bryant to play far to many minutes down the stretch just in the hope of nabbing one of the last playoff spots.  Bryant wound up rupturing his Achilles tendon, an injury that Laker personal says you can’t attribute to the excessive minutes thrust upon the 34-year-old star.  However, according to WebMD, the causes for an this tear include overuse and stepping up activity too quickly.  Um, playing 45 to 48 minutes a game qualifies as overuse and stepping up ones activity.  This seems to agree with common sense.

Had Jim Buss been able to set his ego aside and hire Jackson, the Lakers would have been in a better position and likely would not have had to push Bryant.  This may not have eliminated, but certainly would have reduced his risk for this injury.

True Jackson would have cost more money then D’Antoni, but Kobe is going to cost Buss 30 mil next year that he will not be getting a good return on.  And who knows, with a fourth or fifth seed maybe these Lakers could have pulled off the offset and won it all.  Then all of the Jackson haters could have said yeah but look at all of the talent Jackson has.

PhiljacksonKnThe New York Knicks – As soon as Mike D’Antoni resigned in mid-season from the Knicks, it didn’t take long for the rumors to start about Phil Jackson returning to the team he was drafted by and had won a championship with as a player.  Assistant coach Mike Woodson was promoted to interim coach and certainly did more than enough to earn the job full-time.

But I go back to my opening analogy, if you have a 30-homerun guy and 40-homerun guy who do you take?  The additional money Jackson would cost amounts to pennies for Knick Owner James Dolan.  The Knicks have had an up and down year but do appear to be rising heading into the playoffs.  They do have the talent to upset Miami and win it all.  Will they?  Anything short of that should leave questions with respect to what they would have done with Jackson.

For as good job as he has done, Woodson has placated the supremely talented but ball stopping Carmelo Anthony.  The chemistry between he and a healthy Amar’e Stoudemire is still not there and Melo still shoots too much.

phil-jacksonmjKPhil Jackson and his gravitas may have been the best thing to ever happen to Melo.  If Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were able to accept and thrive in the ball moving triangle offense, you know Melo would have had to try to make it work as well.  I also think Jackson would have gotten Melo to play better and more consistent defense.  The book is still open but anything short of a championship this season or within the next two and you have to wonder.

Oklahoma City ThunderScott Brooks has done a great job with the Thunder.  They made the NBA finals last year and got a little jobbed by the officials on their way to losing to the Miami Heat in five games.  Brooks’ contract expired and he was a coaching free agent.  For a minute, it looked like he might not reach agreement.  There was a slight murmur of Phil Jackson to OKC, but not any serious exploration.  This was a mistake.

durantwest_editedThey may say all of the right things off the court but clearly there are on court chemistry issues between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  The Zen Master, has a little experience in this department with two stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who didn’t like each other.  Durant and Westbrook appear to like to each other and do want to win.

With the departure of James Harden to Houston, I think Jackson would have made an even bigger difference heading into this year’s playoffs, especially in confidence and fourth quarter execution.  In fact I will go ahead and say it: With Phil Jackson, OKC would have won it all this year.  Now we will see.

Unlike LA or NY, money could have been a real issue with OKC, but I think it was foolish of ownership not to explore further.  Maybe Jackson takes less for this opportunity?

Like Woodson in NY, Brooks earned his place.  But this isn’t about that.  Sports is a win now business.  When the window is open, you never know how long it will stay open.  And when the game’s best is available for the job and can take you that next level, you seize it.  Or at least explore all avenues to see if you can make it work before making your choice.

I think all three franchises struck out here.  We will see if and how it haunts them.  We will see if and when they raise their next or first championship banner.  And if they don’t win, we will wonder if they would have done better  if they went Zen.

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Why does ESPN’s Colin Cowherd hate Michael Jordan?

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ESPN radio and talk show host Colin Cowherd has his pet issues that he has made his mission to influence his audience with.  For instance: telling us Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo is better than we think, and that N.Y. Jet QB Mark Sanchez is as good as the N.Y. Giant’s Eli Manning at the same juncture of their careers.

Annoying as those are, they pale in comparison to what must keep the Herd up at night, and that is that we should all worship Lebron James (LBJ).  He won’t say it but he thinks King James is better than Michael Jordan.  But that is not enough, he finds it necessary to tear down Jordan every time he builds up Lebron.  It would be as if a sportscaster couldn’t say something good about Albert Pujols without trying to diminish Babe Ruth.

Oh he’ll preface any foray into this area by saying he doesn’t hate Jordan and that Michael is the best ever… before he proceeds to diminish Jordan’s career and prop up his fave, LBJ.  This is kind of like Jeff Daniels’ character on the HBO show, The Newsroom, he claims to be a registered republican and then proceeds to bash republicans and agree with democrats the entire time.  Yes Mr. Sorkin, some of us do catch that.

I observed Cowherd’s love affair with Lebron since “the decision” and his never-ending defense of James and his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  To listen to Colin, James’ teammates had the skill level of mentally challenged teenage girls, while Jordan played with eleven hall of famers.

Granted this isn’t world news, but the Herd’s reporting here is irresponsible.  The fact that he repeats it so often is troubling because I do not think he, nor his staff are incompetent.  If not incompetence than it is intentional.

Here is an example:  In defending James for leaving Cleveland to pursue his first championship in Miami, the Herd says he had too.  He didn’t have the team there.  Jordan didn’t start winning until he got Pippen, (Scottie) one of the 50 greatest players, Rodman, (Dennis) the best rebounder, Kerr, (Steve) the best three-point shooter, Toni Kukoc, the best European player and so on… That’s fascinating because I could have sworn that Dennis Rodman played on the two time defending champion Detroit Pistons that Jordan beat on the way to his first championship.  Steve Kerr was playing in Cleveland that year and Toni Kukoc was not in the NBA.  Rodman, Kukoc and Kerr were part of Jordan’s 2nd threepeat team.

Paxson

Chicago Bulls point guard, John Paxson

Since Colin says the numbers don’t lie, let’s look at the first championship team and compare that to Lebron’s Cavaliers in his final season with them.  Jordan had John Paxson at the point.  Paxson’s career stats are: 7.2 ppg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 rpg and a .355% from 3’s.  No all-star game appearances.  Lebron had Mo Williams at the point.  His career stats are: 13.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.9 rpg and.386% from 3’s.  Williams did make an All- Star team in the 2008-2009 season, the second to last for James in Cleveland.

Now lets look at the power forward position.  Not Dennis Rodman Colin, but Horace Grant was the PF for Jordan’s 1st through 3rd championship.  His career stat line is: 11.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, (3 offensive pg).  In the year they won their first title, Grant averaged 12.2 ppg and 8.4 rpg.  He had one All-Star game appearance, after they won their first championship.  Lebron’s PF was Anderson Varejao.  His stats:  7.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg (2.6 offensive pg).  In Lebron’s last year in Cleveland, Varejao averaged 8.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg.  No All-Star appearances.

At the center position, we have two past their prime players in Bill Cartright for the Bulls and all-time great, Shaquille O’Neal, for Cleveland.  Career stats really aren’t fair here so let’s look at their stats and their backups for the one season.  Shaq’s numbers: 12 ppg, 6.7 rpg  and 1.2 bpg.  His backup, Zydrunas Ilgauskas: 7.4 ppg 5.4 rpg and .8 bpg.  Bill cartright: 9.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .2 bpg.  His backup, Will Purdue: 4.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and .8 bpg.

Of course Scottie Pippen will get a big edge over whoever we compare him to for Cleveland.  But here are the numbers, Pippen averaged 17.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 6.2 assists per game.  And he was an all-world defender.  During Lebron’s last season with Cleveland they did acquire two-time all-star Antawn Jamison and in 23 games he averaged 15.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg and just 1.3 apg.  Who knows what chemistry LBJ would have developed with Jamison had they played together a whole season the next year, given how the Herd is always trumpeting how much better Lebron makes other players.

I won’t bore you with bench stats but suffice it to say neither had a 6th man of the year riding the pines.  Leaving out MJ and Lebron, if I could complete a starting five from both teams I would take, Pippen, Shaquille, Mo Williams and Horace Grant.  Ultimately the Bulls get the edge because of Pippen, (and of course Jordan) but the disparity isn’t the gaping chasm the Herd speaks of.  Jordan could have won building with that Cavalier team, and if James was as good as the Herd says, he could have too.

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There were two schools of thought about how the Cavaliers series went against the Boston Celtics, who they lost to, in James’ last season.  One, that he was hurt and two that he quit on his own team either out of resignation or that he was disgruntled with a teammate.  Either way, it ends the conversation for me comparing him with MJ but that’s another story.  The point is, the Cav’s took a championship Celtic team that wound up losing a very tight seven game finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, to six games.  So whether James quit on his team or was hurt, they were close and could have continued to build.  A full season with Jamison, another key acquisition, the right role player, etc…

Before Jordan’s Bulls won, they had lost to the Isiah Thomas led Detroit Pistons twice; Pippen had a soft label that he suffered migraines in big moments.  There were no other all-stars or players of note on the team.  Phil Jackson wasn’t a proven commodity when hired as the head coach.  Jackson had asked Jordan to embrace a more team oriented, less shots for him, offense.  Of little notoriety at the time, MJ embraced the triangle offense.   Embracing Jackson, the offense, standing by Pippen, and the Bulls, in retrospect they seem like givens.  They weren’t.  In today’s NBA they certainly are not.  (Props to Kevin Durant for kicking it old school)

Hypothetically, MJ could have pulled a Lebron and looked to get out.  (If not by free agency then by trade.) The 80’s and 90’s mentality was to fight your way through your roadblock or die trying. Not go around it.  In fact it is not difficult for me to imagine if Lebron and Jordan had switched career places and Lebron was a free agent on that Bulls team, after losing to the Pistons for a second time?  I can see him taking off to Boston, LA or one of the other teams in front of them…History would be changed.  There would be no Bulls dynasty.  No “Zen Master” in Phil Jackson.  Scottie Pippen goes down as a borderline hall of famer at best, but not a fifty greatest, and the vaunted triangle offense remains anonymous.

Lebron quitting and abdicating his throne doesn’t make him a bad person (the classless way he left wasn’t a good look), and of course the choice was his.  It doesn’t mean he isn’t a great player.  However, it is one reason why he loses in comparison to MJ and some other greats.

Let’s look at more Herd statements:

“Jordan is the best player ever… but we undervalue the importance of making other players better.  Lebron makes other players better.  Jordan makes himself better”.

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Michael Jordan congratulating Steve Kerr and Kerr hits game winning shot in the NBA Finals. (The pass came from, ahem, MJ)

 

“Shooters will always want to play with Lebron… You play with Jordan you lost shots, you play with Lebron you gain shots”.

Is this true?  First off, Jordan made his teammates better by stepping on the court.  He was much more than a scorer.  Among his many accomplishments, MJ was the first player to record 200 steals and 100 blocked shots in season.  While being a scorer first, his career assist average is 5.3 compared to James’ 6.9.  You would think Jordan would have a negative apg average listening to the Herd.  But let’s look at his specific charge about gaining and losing shots.

Colin refers to Steve Kerr as the best shooter.  Kerr’s shot per game numbers in his seasons with the Bulls were: 7, 6, 5.9, 5.7, and 6.  Before he got to the Bulls his numbers were: 2.4, 2 and 2.3.  After he left the Bulls, and went to play with the big fundamentalist, Tim Duncan, in San Antonio, his SPG were: 4, 2.3 and 2.9.  These numbers don’t include three-point attempts per game, but guess what Colin?  His three highest total three-point shots per game numbers came with Michael and the Bulls.  For the sake of brevity I won’t list the numbers for John Paxson and B.J. Armstrong but they weren’t losing shots.  You can fact check at Basketball Reference.com, click here.

What about shots playing with Lebron?  Well let’s look at the aforementioned Antawn Jamison brought in to help James.  With Washington that the first part of the 09-10 season he took 17.1 shots per game, and with Cleveland, 13.4.  I’m sure Lebron was able to help an aging Shaq get more shots right?  Nope.  He took 11.2 per game in Phoenix the year before he took 8.7 with Cleveland.  Mo Williams?  12.4 with LBJ and 12.6 the year after he left.

And when it comes to creating a shot for your sharp shooting teammates when the game is on the line, Jordan is who I want with the ball.  Why?  Because he is not afraid to go the rim and take foul shots if he gets fouled.  Thus he is more likely to get double or triple teamed and be in a position to pass out.  As opposed to Lebron, who tends to avoid the rim in these situations because he is not a clutch foul shooter.

The Herd goes on, “when Jordan was drafted by the Bulls that was bad news for Orlando Woolridge and Quintin Daily”… Really?  The year before MJ, Woolridge averaged 19.3 points per game taking 14.5 shots.  MJ’s first year, Woolridge averaged 22.9 points on 15.9 shots.  How is that math working out for you Herd?  Daily took a slight drop.  His average went from 18.2 to 16 points per.

“What Lebron did with what he had was more remarkable than what Jordan did… The Cavs had bigger drop off after Lebron left than when Jordan left the Bulls”…

Fact, but not really.  When Jordan left the Bulls the first time they only lost two more games than they did the season before and the Cavs did fall off the map after James left.

But wait, again, the Herd referred to Steve Kerr as “the best shooter”.  Well when was his first season with the Bulls?  That would be the year after MJ left.  Didn’t the Herd refer to Tony Kukoc as the world’s best European player?  Sure did, and you guessed it, his first season with the Bulls was the year MJ was gone.  Oh and Rodman still wasn’t a Bull though the Herd says he was.  Google!  Herd you might want to try it sometime.

What about Cleveland?  In addition to the defection by James, they lost Shaquille, Zydrunas Ilgauskas the starter pre-Shaq also left as a free agent, Anderson Varajo played in only 31 games due to injury, Baron Davis, an acquisition that was suppose to help offset the loss of James played 15 games due to injury, and Mo Williams was traded after 36 games.  There’s more but you get the point.  Not exactly an apples to apples comparison, eh Herd?

The Herd would have you believe the teams were exactly the same but for MJ and LBJ.

Further coach Phil Jackson has said that in Jordan’s last year prior to his first retirement, they had repeated as champions and maybe underachieved during his last regular season.  And with something to prove maybe they overachieved the year he was gone.

“Michael played with better players his first three years”.  “After winning and NCAA title as a freshman he went seven or eight years without winning.”

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Apparently the Herd doesn’t think much of winning an Olympic gold medal.  Oh, we know about the dream team in 1992.  However, prior to that, the USA, past it’s dominance, didn’t play in 1980 due to our country’s boycott of the games, and lost in 1988, but won gold with MJ in 1984.  Michael led the all-amateur team with 17.1 points per game.

As for his first three seasons, he was competing against dynasties and much tougher competition.  The Celtics, Lakers, Pistons, 76ers, and more.  The Herd and others have commented on how the talent in the league is watered down today due to expansion.  The rules are much easier and favor offensive players today.  LBJ doesn’t have to take near the beating MJ takes.  I think it was NBA analyst Tim Legler who mentioned that to the Herd but he didn’t seem too interested in hearing it, and certainly didn’t repeat it like he does his pro LBJ comments ad nausea.  Psychologically I don’t think LBJ could have survived the pounding “the bad boy” Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks gave Jordan.

Another semi important factoid the Herd (and others forget or ignore) is that in MJ’s second season he only started seven games.  Why?  Because he broke his foot missing 64 games.  He came back with just a handful of games left against the advice of doctors and heroically led the Bulls into the playoffs.  In Boston, he scored a still unbroken record of 63 points against the eventual Larry Bird led Celtic champions.  A team in the discussion for best ever.

In MJ’s rookie season, only he and Orlando Woolridge started more than 55 games, so it was a team in flux.

“Jordan got a huge gift with a push-off against Utah.  He struggled in that series…  Lebron and the Heat dominated Oklahoma City and won a title with no center, little bench and Dwyane Wade playing the same position.”

Okay, a foul could have been called on MJ on that play against Bryon Russell in the finals against Utah.  However the offensive player usually gets the benefit of the doubt and I think he makes the shot anyway with or without the push.

What you don’t hear Colin repeatedly pontificate about is LBJ as a defensive player getting away with clearly fouling Kevin Durant at the end of game two of their finals. This could have put the game into overtime.  If Miami, who was never trailing in that game, goes on to choke it away, not an impossibility for an LBJ team to that point, the whole series is different with OKC now up 2-0.

Oh and let’s not forget the phantom fourth foul called on Durant in-game three that OKC was taking over in the third quarter that sent Durant to the bench and turned the game around. Click here.  OKC could have been up 3-0 but the Herd emphatically says they were dominated!

As for the Heat’s talent?  How about Shane Battier and Mike Miller combining to make 72 three pointers in the playoffs?  Oh and that is what they do… before they ever teamed with Lebron, so don’t even go there Herd.  How about Udonis Haslem who won a ring with D. Wade and the Heat in 2006?  His return from injury was also key in their run.  And after Koby Bryant, Wade is considered the game’s next best closer.  Not exactly a strength of James’.  Chris Bosh, another all-star and probable future hall of famer, came up big.  Exactly how much talent is James suppose to have around him before he is suppose to win?

Since the Herd likes to paint MJ as a selfish player and not a good teammate, I’ll add that Jordan was the first and perhaps only player to insist that his teammates be in the post championship “I’m going to Disney World” commercial.

With MJ the Herd likes to mention that: Jordan punched a teammate, his gambling, and his less than well received hall of fame speech.

With LBJ the Herd makes like his departure from Cleveland was no biggy, minimizing his quitting on his team, doesn’t mention how he refused to shake hands after a playoff loss, nor apologize for it upon further reflection.  How he and or Nike tried to cover up a video of a high school kid blocking his shot.

None of these events are earthshaking but it’s like if you were a publicist who would you guess the Herd is being paid to make look good and bad?

The Herd refers to MJ’s hall of fame speech as petty, but within the first minute he is praising Pippen commenting on how he couldn’t do it without him.

Herd, I’m an unpaid blogger trying to survive on peanut butter and Matzos… Dude, you have a THREE HOUR ESPN radio show five days a week!  I’m assuming someone(s) helping you with research, and you rant about this topic repeatedly, how about filling in some details, and facts, and balance?!  Do some homework and or come out of the closet and admit you think Lebron is better than Michael.

You want to convince me you don’t hate Jordan and that you think he is the best ever, than mix in an opening rant where you spend as much time talking up MJ as you do LBJ.

You know, the guy who you say is the better rebounder, passer, defender, that he is bigger, faster, stronger, makes his teammates better.

Right, you think Jordan is better than him…And for the record, I don’t hate LBJ.

WHAT DO THE LAKERS, HEAT AND KNICKS HAVE IN COMMON?

The talking heads have gone back and forth pontificating about the fortunes of these teams.  Lets start with the Los Angeles Lakers.  The two-time defending champions were being overlooked to start the NBA season, and while many were picking the Miami Heat and their big three to run away with it (Jeff Van Gundy saying 70 WINS was doable), the Lakers got off to a sizzling start and all of a sudden the talking heads were commenting on how under the radar the Lakers were and now many were in their corner citing Kobe Bryant, coach Phil Jackson, their size, experience and chemistry.  But then all of a sudden the Lake show was having a tough time beating winning teams.  Andrew Bynum was recovering slowly from off-season knee surgery and then they had a three game losing streak before the All-Star break including one loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.  The plethora of sports talk shows were all asking the same question: On a scale of one to ten how worried should the Lakers be?  Or my other favorite:  Is it time for the Lakers to panic?  Now, they were not referring to Kobe as the game’s best closer, rather, he was old, Bynum was not healing, Ron Artest was playing uninterested, and the Lakers were done as far a championship this year…   Post all-star break, the Lake show is back!  They’ve won ten out of eleven, Bynum is healthy, Kobe is back as the best closer and Skip Bayless is touting him as an MVP candidate (That is just Skip being Skip, everybody knows it will and should be D. Rose)

The Miami Heat.  To be fair, some did say at the start of the season, that it would take time for Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh and the rest (on Gillighan’s Island) to develop chemistry, and that the Lakers and Boston Celtics should be favorites. Not surprisingly the Heat under performed to their talent to start the season, got hot, got cold and more recently hot again, putting together their most impressive three game winning streak against the Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.  And presto magic they are all of a sudden a threat to win it all again.  In between, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was thrown under the bus, pulled out, and thrown under again several times. Wade, James and Bosh were questioned and criticized every which way.  James went from not being an MVP candidate, to being one to not being able to close out a game to being great.  For Wade, it was his team, then Lebron’s, and now whispers that he should be an MVP candidate.

You see intellectually people knew there could be growing pains for the Heat, just like they know there are “dog days” in a season for veteran teams like the Lakers, but when the growing pains happen in front of us or a veteran team slumps, for some reason we are shocked by it and way overreact to the good and the bad along the way.

The New York Knicks.  Weren’t suppose to be a good team this year.  They overpaid for Amare Stoudemire, (according to the talking heads).  He and coach D’Antoni didn’t get along in Phoenix (true but that was a forced marriage, here they were both willing going in) and the Knicks didn’t have any other talent to surround Amare with.  Stoudemire winds up exceeding expectations, not only as a player but as a leader as well.  He and D’Antoni are getting along swimmingly and Coach D. does what he always does, and coaches up players getting more out of them then what was thought he could.  But still, the Knicks weren’t going to be players for Carmelo Anthony, because they didn’t have talent to draw interested from Denver.  Well as we all know, Denver had little choice but to deal with the Knicks and they trade Melo and Chauncy Billups to New York.  Billups might have been the most disrespected element of any trade I have ever seen.  Former all-star, former champion, great clutch player currently shooting over forty percent from the three point line but that is besides the point.  The talking heads declared this doesn’t make the Knicks that much better this year but now if they get Chris Paul or Deron Williams  after 2012 then they’ll be a championship team.  So then what happens?  Everybody remembers, oh yeah, Chauncey Billups is pretty good too.  The Knicks upset Miami, Memphis, and all of a sudden their stock rises.  They can beat the Heat in the first round of the playoffs proclaims ESPN’s Michael Wilbon.  But then Billups gets hurt, the Knicks lose a few, the Denver Nuggets win a few and now the Knicks are done, Wilbon retracts his prediction, Mark Cuban and others are saying Denver got the better of the trade.  Never mind that it has taken the Heat almost the whole season to first be getting it together.  Now we got the media holding D’Antoni by the wrists and ankles getting ready to throw him under the bus because a team that was not supposed to compete for a championship under any circumstance, and was to be an underdog if they made the playoffs under any circumstance is going through the same growing pains that we just saw the Heat go through!

Moral of the story?   Dudes!  Chill out!  A pro sports season is a marathon not a sprint.  Patience is a virtue, and there are going to be ups and downs.  Fans beware, many in the media are no smarter than the drunk boob at your local sports bar.  Thank God they don’t actually run or coach a team…

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Can’t wait for the NBA playoffs and the annual this team is done, this same team is great that occurs game to game based on one win or a loss…

Kendick Perkins referred to Pau Gasol as soft?  Yo Kendrick… Pau is an all-star and a key contributor on a two time defending champion… If he is soft then maybe soft isn’t so bad…

Skip Bayless.  The difference between Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose as far as MVP this year, is the consistency of the Bulls play all season, and that Derrick carried the Bulls and played exceptional when key players were out (Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer).  Kobe started looking like Kobe and getting MVP talk only when Bynum was healthy.  Before that the Lakers weren’t playing on a championship level, your criteria for even being considered.