Hate Mail | Doyel Rules | Berger: Kobe or Wall-E?
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Phil Jackson is too old for this crap. What crap? Lamar Odom. That crap.
Phil Jackson is too old to have to coach Lamar Odom.
In fact, I might be onto something here. Maybe Phil Jackson is too old because of Lamar Odom.
Last time I saw Phil Jackson was the 2008 NBA Finals. That was just one year ago, but that was a very different Phil Jackson. As I recall, his hair was gray, but dark gray. The color was hanging in there, and he had it cut in a relatively cool style. He had that soul patch under his bottom lip, too. Very cool. Jackson was old, but he wasn't looking old.
One year later?
The hair has gone almost completely white. The soul patch has gone, period. And the haircut is old-school, and not old-school in that nutty hipster way Jackson once pulled off. No, it has gone old-school as in ... old. One year later, Phil Jackson looks like Phil Jackson's grandfather.
• Finals: Lakers 2, Magic 1
I blame Lamar Odom.
Don't get me wrong -- Odom's a good kid. But he's a kid, which is why he is so maddening. This is his 10th season in the NBA, and he turns 30 in a few months, and he's still a kid. A big goofy kid who eats candy all day, eats it so much that his candy habit has become a national story in recent weeks.
Plus he plays like a knucklehead.
|The Lakers have Kobe to rescue the offense when Lamar Odom's game stops making sense. (Getty Images)|
In those 37 games, the Clippers went 4-33.
Imagine Odom at 20. He's hard enough to contemplate at age 30, because he remains one of the most gifted players I've ever seen, yet he won't get into the Basketball Hall of Fame without a ticket -- and without someone to show him where the front door is. And how to open the darn thing. Do you push it? Or pull it? Hell if Lamar Odom knows. He's too busy watching those neat little butterflies float past. Look at the bright wings on that one!
Game 3 in these NBA Finals was all you need to know about Lamar Odom. He played 32½ minutes, but you probably only noticed him for about four minutes. Those were the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, when Kobe Bryant was resting on the bench, and Odom took it upon himself to be Kobe Bryant.
Maybe this was Phil Jackson's strategy, but I doubt it. I'm not all that into the "genius" of Phil Jackson. That's an old story, one you already know. He had Michael and Scottie, then Shaq and Kobe, and blah blah blah. Genius? Not necessarily as a coach, if you ask me. Maybe as a human being, though. Phil Jackson is one smart cookie, which means he's way too smart to turn his team over to Lamar Odom in the first part of the fourth quarter Tuesday night.
But that's what happened. Odom became the team's point guard and go-to scorer all at the same time, attacking the defense and spinning and getting close to the rim and throwing up whatever concocted shot he could throw up. The thing is, Odom is gifted enough -- at 6-foot-10 -- to attack the rim and spin and get off a shot.
He's just not gifted enough to make it pay off all that often.
Typically he flails his way to the foul line, where he shoots like a kid, spreading his feet wide and then swinging his right foot up next to his left, as if that works. It doesn't. He was a 62.3 percent shooter from the foul line in the regular season, and a 60 percent shooter in these playoffs. But still he attacks the rim and gets fouled and goes to the line to make his one free throw in two tries.
That was the Los Angeles offense while Bryant was resting in the fourth quarter, which is why the Lakers couldn't cut into Orlando's lead until Bryant rose from the bench with 8:12 remaining and reclaimed the offense from Odom's silly little fingers.
But Odom gets major minutes, more than anyone on the team but Bryant and Pau Gasol even though he doesn't start, because he's so damn talented. In Games 1 and 2, Odom averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds and shot 65 percent from the field. When he's good, he's great. But in Game 3 Odom's production dipped to 11 points, and he got that many only because he hijacked the offense in the fourth quarter, possibly feeling the effects of a sugar high. In 32½ minutes he grabbed two more rebounds than Tiger Woods, who sat in the first row.
Odom is utterly confounding. Too good to leave on the bench, but too erratic to trust. Odom is the kind of player who can get a coach fired, but Phil Jackson has Kobe, and so Phil Jackson will never be fired. So he lets Odom play.
He'll let Odom play until his hair falls out.