Former NBA coach and player Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Laker's Pau Gasol and Children's Hospital Los Angeles patient and Junior Ambassador Javier Arreola on stage at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles Gala: Noche de Ninos at L.A. Live Event Deck on October 20, 2012 at L.A. Live Event Deck on October 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Children's Hospital Los Angeles)
Phil Jackson commented on the current state of the Los Angeles Lakers and provided some pointed analysis on the Lakers’ big men to Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated.
In the sit-down interview that occurred prior to Dr. Jerry Buss’s passing, Jackson discussed the Lakers’ problem of playing two big men together. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard caused heated debates and city-wide controversy when they struggled to play together earlier in the season.
Coach Mike D’Antoni even relegated Gasol to a bench role prior to the Spaniard getting hurt.
“Well, what is the problem?” Jackson asked. “We won two championships that way [with two big men]. Pau is one of the best big men in the game. I mean, Pau Gasol is going to be in the Hall of Fame.”
When discussing Howard, Jackson was full of praise for the Lakers’ center, but he conceded that injuries had clearly played a part. However, Jackson’s harshest criticism of the current Lakers seemed to match Howard’s season-long complaint.
“They just don’t put the ball in the post,” Jackson stated. “Dwight just doesn’t get any touches. They’ve basically eliminated his assets.”
Jackson started making the natural comparisons of Howard to Shaquille O’Neal, but the former is nowhere near as dominant as the latter, right?
“I think he can be,” the Zen Master said. “But he is not where he needs to be physically because of the back surgery. He needs a year to recover from something like that. He’s starting to come around, but he has a massive upper body to carry around. He’s a terrific athlete, but he still has to get all that back.”
Jackson also had offered some insight into the constant turnovers that have frustrated fans all season long. Howard has averaged 3.0 turnovers per game through the first 48 games of the season.
“He’s looking better all the time,” Jackson continued. “But his problem right now is turnovers. He’s got to have a little better recognition, and that will help him gain the confidence of his teammates and coach, which he does not have now.”