Posted by Matt Moore
So which is it? Is Phil Jackson so successful because of his ability to run the triangle offense, a complicated but brilliant system which facilitates ball movement and spacing like few systems when executed successfully? Or is it simply having the best offensive player in the game that makes things click? Or is it having that player in that system?
The answer probably lies in a murky "yes" to all those questions. Jackson has coached the two greatest shooting guards of all time, and he's also watched them self-destruct his offense time and time again, even when that offense is almost always the best option for the team considering the talent on the floor. But hey, at least he's honest about it. From NBA.com:
"He's probably a little better at it than Kobe is, because Kobe ignores the offense."
-- Lakers coach Phil Jackson, on Artest's grasp of the triangle offense via NBA.com - The Game Happens Here.
Just a joke, an off-handed remark, but not the first time Jackson's said such a thing. He's made it very clear in the past that there are times when Bryant simply goes off-script. Of course, this was a lot easier to forgive when Bryant was three years younger and the Lakers weren't stacked to the brim with talented players who, in the context of the triangle, can utterly destroy an opponent. Bryant still goes maverick on the offense, sometimes clearing out in ISO (ISO, with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom on the floor!) for 35-foot pull-up threes. And for many years that was okay, because he was hitting those shots. But nowadays, even with his field goal percentage up, it's on account of his hard work in the post or veteran savvy, not the wild, amazing shots he used to drain all over the floor. And he's still threatening to shoot his team out of games.
That said, Jackson is a very "trust what works" guy, and Bryant works. Always has. He's hitting at a higher clip than last season and is the most confident player in the game when it comes to what to do on offense. Bryant's not changing anytime soon, nor does Phil Jackson want him to. It's just the cost of having one of the best players in the game at the heart of your team. Plus, Bryant's ability to improvise creates instantaneous and improvisation defensive issues. If you've gameplanned to stop Bryant in the triangle all week and then he goes into his own device, you're suddenly trying to adjust to a new set of protocols, which often means you're one-on-one with no help. And it's at that point, you're toast.