Will Phil's new deal keep Kobe in LA?

Phil Jackson loves LA. He loves the short commute from his Playa Del Ray home to the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo. He presumably loves born and bred Los Angelian and owner’s daughter Jeanie Buss. He certainly loves the laid back California vibe. And now, he also apparently really loves the 2 year $24 million contract extension he got from the team.

But, while we’re happy for Phil and his 24 million new GWs, the first thought that came to mind when hearing this news, just like every other Laker-watcher we’re sure, was, "does this have any Kobe implications." Jackson himself was quick to address that question, telling a press room full of curious media on Thursday night, "The decision to return as coach and the decision to be asked to return as coach both had very little to do with Kobe Bryant and very little to do with the talent. It's about the situation here -- the proximity that I feel to this organization, the comfort I feel working for this organization and the progress I think we're making."

Ok, fair enough Phil. We understand that you can’t speak for Kobe. The proper messaging, for you folks in PR, was for Phil to address his own situation and not create unnecessary news by tieing it into anything related to Kobe, the trade demands and the summer of discontent. As always, nicely played Phil. Still, while $24 million is certainly plenty compelling, Jackson isn’t hurting for money or employment opportunities should he decide to leave Los Angeles. So, why then do you lock yourself in to 3 seasons with a team and an organization that seems to be teetering on the edge of chaos?

The Lakers squad as it is constituted today is nowhere near championship caliber. Young players like Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum, while showing some talent of late, is just as apt to induce a migraine headache with their still inconsistent play, as they are to garner praise. The GM is inept. They’re possibly one long losing streak, or Kobe outburst away from all hell breaking loose. The owner’s son doesn’t get along with the team’s superstar, and the superstar’s personality is bi-polar at best. So, unless Phil knows something that we don’t, as much as he loves LA and the $12 million per season, the extension just doesn’t add up.

Is the house that Jerry, Phil and Kobe built getting structural reconstruction behind the scenes? No-one on the outside looking in, from sports writers to fans, know the answer, but the circumstances, as they are, certainly make you wonder.

What we do know though is that Kobe seems happy – or happier. His much-maligned teammates are playing relatively well, he seems content with the role of facilitator and everyone is all smiles.

"I think it's great," Bryant said of the signing. "He's clearly, in my opinion, the greatest coach of all time. When you can lock him in, that's always a great sign."

Sign of what? That the Lakers are finally showing Kobe that they are serious about winning?


The NBA becomes upside down; We become scared

Just wanted to double-check, but did the space-time continuum spontaneously reverse itself on Monday night? Are we now living in a parallel universe? Is this what the Wachowski Brothers were going for with The Matrix? Seriously, what else could explain what happened last night in the NBA?

The underdog became king, as just about every league powerhouse lost, and some in blowouts, to the season’s bottom-dwellers. It was like revenge of the nerds, where Beno Udrih played Louis Scholnik and Tim Duncan was Stan Gable. The Sacramento Kings beat down the San Antonio Spurs 112-99, the Golden State Warriors outscored the Phoenix Suns 129-114, the Gilbert Arenas-less Washington Wizards took out the Dallas Mavericks 110-98, the Minnesota Timberwolves surprised the New Orleans Hornets 103-94 and even the lowly New York Knicks, given all of their off-court issues, took out the Utah Jazz 113-109. Only the underperforming Houston Rockets, who beat the Los Angeles Clippers 88-71, and the Orlando Magic, who bested the Portland TrailBlazers 85-74, escaped the foreboding clutches of “upset Monday” in the NBA.

Maybe, what’s happening in college football is contagious?

We hope not, because there needs to be a certain order to things. Edward Lorenz and his Chaos Theory can keep itself out of the NBA, thank you very much. Every year, there are teams that are good and teams that are bad, and the predictability and comfort that comes from that knowledge can spur euphoria when in the rarest of cases a 8 seed like last year’s Golden State Warriors upsets the 1 seed Dallas Mavericks. In that case, the event was unpredictable and unusual. That’s what made it special. But, when this becomes a regular occurrence we end up with widespread parity. And upsets become almost expected. That homogeny works perhaps in the NFL where parity is king, but can’t be useful for David Stern’s NBA.

The NBA has always thrived when there were powerhouses to rule the land. The proper order of things, dictated the repeated Finals match-ups between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 80s. It influenced the yearly Eastern Conference playoff rivalries in the 90s amongst the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. It drove Sacramento and Portland fans to absolutely and unconditionally hate the Los Angeles Lakers teams of Shaq and Kobe. It defined rivalries and added a necessary level of predictability to every NBA season.

So, please leave us alone Mr. Parity. The NBA needs the dominant players, the teams you love to hate. It needs repeat champions. It needs a general order to things. Nights like Monday can be fun in moderation, but let’s not make it general practice.


Old School Baller of the Week: Bobby Jones

Mr. Peabody and Sherman are nowhere to be found, but the Wayback Machine is in full effect on the "Fans' Voice" NBA blog. Starting now, every week during the NBA season we'll take a trip back in time and profile one old school NBA baller. Generally, the NBA ol' timers profiled here won't be your household stars with names like Chamberlain and West, but rather the forgotten stars that had a significant impact on the game. Because, boys and girls, without the NBA (...and ABA) pioneers that came before we wouldn't have the game we so love today. Knowledge is power, as they say. And believe us, we expect these posts to be a cathartic exercise for us as well, as we hope to use this forum to brush up on our own familiarity with NBA history. On to this week's "Old School Baller of the Week".

Name: Bobby Jones
Position: Small Forward/Powar Forward
Height/Weight: 6'9"/210 pounds
Teams: Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers

What made him so special?

Robert Clyde Jones, or otherwise known as Bobby, played 12 season of pro ball – 2 in the ABA, followed by 10 seasons, mostly with the Philadelphia 76ers, in the NBA. During that playing career, which lasted from 1974 to 1986, Jones was named to the All-NBA, or ABA, defensive team a whopping 11 times and was selected 5 times to the All-Star team. Jones was also the consummate team player, as his teams made the playoffs every single year he played pro ball. Jones won an NBA championship toward the end of his career in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers of Julius “Dr. J” Earving and Moses Malone, and was presented with the NBA sixth man of the year award that same year. Jones was Tayshaun Price before the Pistons All-Star was in his mamma’s womb and Bruce Bowen before the Spurs forward was just a toddler.

Tall, lanky defense-oriented players like the aforementioned Prince, or Gerald Wallace, or even Andres Biedrins, whether consciously or not, are playing the same type of basketball today that Jones revolutionized more than 25 years ago. Jones was such a great defender that following his on-court battles with Dr.J, when the Sixers played the Nuggets in the waning years of the ABA, instead of having the good doctor face Jones’ stifling defense as an opponent any longer, Philadelphia decided to trade for Mr. Jones. Jones, unlike players such as Ron Artest for example, didn’t use gimmicks like hand-checking, grabbing the uniform or bodying up on his opponent when playing defense. Instead, Jones used his quickness and sheer hustle to stay in front of his opponent defensively and used his length to challenge every shot that came into his space.During his 12 pro seasons, Jones averaged 12.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. At the same time, he shot 55% from the floor and 76% from the free-throw line.

Bobby Jones’ game is most like…

Tayshaun Prince. The career numbers are eerily similar, though Jones’ defensive averages are much more impressive at this point. Check it out for yourself. Prince, for his career, is averaging 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, .7 steals and .7 blocks. Compare those career averages to Jones’ numbers above. There are of course a few differences. Jones was more athletic and displayed that athleticism with his share of high-flying dunks, while Prince is a better shooter from beyond the arc. But, if Jones was playing today, watching him on the court probably would have been a lot like watching Prince work for the Pistons every night.

Dr. J on Jones.

“He’s a player who’s totally selfless, who runs like a deer, jumps like a gazelle, plays with his head and heart each night, and then walks away from the court as if nothing happened.” – Julius Earving.

If he played today.

We probably won’t say this about too many of our profile candidates, as we generally don’t think NBA skills translate well across eras, but we truly believe that if Bobby Jones played today he would as just as good, if not better. He would of course have to build on the lanky 210 pound frame, but Jones’ incessant hustle, unselfish play, crafty mid-range game and incredibly high basketball IQ would make him a seriously precious commodity. Every championship contending team would be falling all over themselves for Jones’ services, because he’s the type of player that would be the final cog in turning a winning team into an NBA champion.