The Zen Of 81
As we all continue to bask in Kobe Bryant's latest amazing accomplishment (81 points? Are you kidding me?), LAist can't help but contemplate the bigger question that hasn't been asked about this season's Lakers. With the team currently very much in the playoff race as we approach the halfway mark of the season, which of the Lakers stars deserves more credit — Kobe Bryant or Phil Jackson?
The argument for Kobe is a simple one. He's all the team's got, he's been literally unstoppable, and he scored freakin' 81 points in a game!
But the case can also be made that Phil Jackson has been every bit as instrumental in the Lakers' turnaround from last season. Think about it. The Lakers have no more talent than they had last year (and probably have less), yet Phil has managed to find a way to make things work. It's hard to believe, but they look like a team headed for the playoffs. A one-man playoff team, but a playoff team nonetheless.
Phil Jackson, the greatest coach in the history of the NBA (yeah, we said it), continues to prove that he has a golden touch. Even though the whole league knows that the Lakers are purely a one-man team, they are still somehow finding a way to win games. It's as if Phil realized early on that he didn't have the horses to win his way — the team way — and so he decided to adapt. Truly great coaches adapt to their talent (Pat Riley went from Lakers Showtime to Knicks Bully Ball for example) and in this case Phil's talent happens to not have a +1 worth inviting to the party.
And the Zenmaster has managed to pull off this one-man team strategy without losing the efforts of guys like Lamar Odom who have been turned into designated rebounders as Kobe jacks 45 shots a game. You may not like the way the Lakers are playing, but you have to admit that it has been effective. Do you think the Lakers could really be in playoff contention right now if Kobe wasn't shooting at will? Probably not.
So the next time Lakers fans start chanting "MVP" when Kobe steps to the foul line for his 63rd point during a game, maybe they should consider honoring the other guy that is making it all possible - with a "Coach of the Year" chant.