Phil Jackson Goes Into Zen Master Mode on Max Kellerman

Max Kellerman - First Take
Stephen A. Smith, Molly Qerim and Max Kellerman, from ESPN’s First Take, debate sports topics during a live broadcast from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Nov. 7, 2016. Every year, in honor of Veterans Day, ESPN’s First Take pays tribute to service members by telecasting their show from different bases and highlighting those who go above and beyond in their job and on the athletic field. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Megan Munoz)

The following interview is one of the more interesting ones I’ve ever done for this site. There are no real shocking answers, butI feel like this is one for the Zen Master’s scrapbooks. In it, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson admits that he sometimes uses the media to help relay subconscious messages and such, basically saying that he uses the media to his advantage as much or more as they use him to theirs. Then, immediately after that answer, Jackson finds long-winded ways to dodge Max Kellerman’s excellent question regarding whether Jackson is on a bit of a mission since he doesn’t have the league’s top duo and some say he can’t win a ring without that. Jackson dodges it three times, twice by thinking back historically on teams and then the final time basically just saying that he thinks the Heat won’t get by the Celtics. The Zen Master at his finest, folks.

Phil Jackson joined ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Max Kellerman to discuss the Lakers grade up to this point, how he uses the media to deliver certain messages, how Kobe has followed him in some of that, how much time Kobe has left and then to basically wax poetic on past teams and players and such while dodging the question of if this title is a new challenge without the league’s number one duo.

Assessing his team at the midway point:

“We got off to a good start, got off to a great start in the season then had a four-game losing streak inside of getting off to that good start. It happened right around Thanksgiving time and all those things came down like we were tired, we weren’t active, we got complacent … We got Drew [Bynum] back and we’re starting to play good again. There’s the kind of balance we need.”

On how much of what he does and says is part of a bigger picture and how much is just an honest reaction:

“There is the idea that you can encourage the team through public statements. I used to have a college coach who said, ‘Don’t listen to what I say in public, listen to what I say in public.’ … But I don’t model myself after [him] but I do sometimes say the most honest thing. … I’ll be very blunt and make a statement that is as true as I can make it. … I think that the press is there for your service as a coach and there’s a message there you can get across.”

If Kobe Bryant sometimes tries to emulate Jackson in that sense:

“I think he does, I think he really does. … The one thing that happened in one of those postgames, I used the term ‘screwed up’ and that, I think, got relayed back to him that sounded like he screwed up the game. The term I was using was cranking it up, that he saw the team was faltering and he was going to pick it up.”

Comparing some of his best teams and those he’s seen to the team in Miami right now:

“It’s a great challenge. The Stockton-Malone thing went on in the 90s with meeting Utah twice in the Finals and they are as good a tandem as you see in basketball. And Hornacek was over there and a lot of people don’t understand how good Hornacek was. … Yes, the team that was the most talented, as far as individuals, was the first team I had in L.A., with a backup lineup of Fisher and Fox and Robert Horry coming off the bench. … But this Miami team, they have some unstoppable guys on this team.”

On if this season is a little different in that he doesn’t have the top duo in the league:

“Indeed. The comments I’ve received from my former teammates and people around the league that are basketball-knowledge people, not people affiliated with teams so much, is that they are juxtapositioning themselves to, ‘Can you guys go out there and beat the Heat for us, please?’ … I personally don’t think they can get by Boston … but there is a chance that they will.”

How long he thinks Kobe can continue playing at this level:

“I’ve encouraged him to maybe take a look at some of Michael Jordan’s career in ’96, ’97, ’98, when the Bulls were still able to win it, yet you could see that there was some tailing off in his capabilities. … It’s not quite as comparable, but it’s pretty close. I think that he’s got a couple years of play left and he’s got to monitor it real close.”

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