With so many things happening at Staples Center Wednesday night in L.A.'s 99-97 win over the Bobcats, it would be easy to mix the messages. So this morning, we're going to compartmentalize, and put each message in its own box. (Then put those boxes into the car, and drive the car around the world until we get heard. What, you thought you'd escape this post without a World Party reference?)
First, things first- The left ankle Kobe Bryant injured last week against the Sixers was sore before the game started, then grew worse after Lamar Odom accidentally landed on Bryant just before the end of the first half. Kobe finished the game, but a two-for-12, five point evening indicates he was pretty limited. Speaking to the media after the game, Kobe was clearly in pain, always distressing given his status as the NBA's Dalton.
Second things second- The Lakers, despite a hobbled Kobe and the lingering effects of the road trip, did some good things offensively. Patience was displayed in the face of major issues shooting the ball (particularly early) against a team that always gives them fits. Odom was the hero, scoring 13 of his 19 in the second half, including eight straight at the end of the third and into the fourth. Andrew Bynum chipped in with 17/14, Ron Artest had 14, and Jordan Farmar came up with a big triple in the fourth and a critical steal in the final seconds to ice the game (click here for the highlight package).
Third things third, but don't let the order diminish the importance (Remember, we're just putting things in boxes, here.)- With the win, Phil Jackson earned victory 534, passing Pat Riley to become the all-time leader in coaching victories for the Lakers franchise. A very impressive accomplishment, to say the least. A few nuggets of coverage:
Comments from Lakers icon A.C. Green, the only man to play for both Riley and Jackson as a member of the Lakers.
Finally, a few excerpts from people kind enough to put finger to keyboard on this subject:
We will define Jackson by his overall number of championships much more than his regular-season victories with the Lakers.
But Riley is a part of this journey. Just as sure as Tex Winter was prodding and antagonizing Jackson alongside him on the bench, Riley was the initial figure looming in the distance. Some six and a half years ago Jackson leaned against a wall in the Thomas & Mack Center before a Laker preseason game in Las Vegas and told of the time he watched Riley receiving a coaching award at the NBA meetings in Palm Springs. Jackson was the second-year coach of the Chicago Bulls, when he was known more for his collection of suspenders than rings, and his old college coach Bill Fitch came up to him and told him he would win more championships than Riley, who had already concluded his run of four championships with the Lakers. Jackson couldn’t even fathom it.
It wasn't even six months after his June departure that Jackson released his tell-all book, "The Last Season," in October of that year. It was written with a good-riddance type of resolve, and aired out grievances between him and ownership and revealed arguments between his players that traditionally stay trapped in the locker room.
That type of tale had been told by former coaches and players before, but it usually occurred when all the principal characters had long since retired. You don't talk about all your star player's warts and expect to ever see him face to face in a huddle again.
In the book, Jackson wrote that at one point, he told general manager Mitch Kupchak, "I won't coach this team next year if [Kobe Bryant] is still here. He won't listen to anyone. I've had it with this kid."
Well, he's coached him again.
He's coached him to 247 more regular-season victories, and he's coached him to championship No. 4 together.
That championship resulted in a number that mattered much more to Jackson than 534 ever will. This past June in Orlando, Fla., he wore a yellow baseball cap with a purple Roman numeral "X" on it to represent his 10 titles passing Red Auerbach's record of nine. There was no special hat Wednesday.
The fact that Jackson relishes rings with the same Gollum-like obsession as Bryant is what saved their relationship.
The title of best player in franchise history will always belong to Magic and the title of best coach will always belong to Riley. Regardless of statistics, numbers or assorted manufactured factors that don't mean anything to the eyes and ears of fans that lived through the magical "Showtime" era in the 1980s.
Despite winning four championships with the Lakers, the same number Riley won with the team, (Jackson) will always be known as the coach of the Michal Jordan-led Bulls first and the coach of the Lakers second. In the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. where they have displays honoring the greatest franchises in NBA history, Pat Riley and John Kundla, who won four NBA titles with the Minneapolis Lakers, are featured in the Lakers display while Jackson is featured in the Bulls display. That's where they reside in the minds of most basketball fans as well.
In other news...
-Before the game, PJ tried to put to rest any notion Kobe overshot in Monday's game against the Grizzlies, saying he had a decisive and exploitable advantage on Memphis' O.J. Mayo. Gregg Patton of the Press-Enterprise wonders if Kobe's quiet game wasn't simply a function of his bum ankle, but an effort to prove a point.
-Carmelo Anthony appears likely to miss Friday's game against the Lakers at Staples.
-Now that he's passed Jerry West for the franchise's points lead, Kobe Bryant must start the truly difficult work, writes Mark Heisler of the LA Times.