If you haven’t read the “The Final Season: a Team in Search of it’s Soul,” you should. I can even direct you to the best chapter: 11.
The Zen Mistress’ memoirs from the 2004 NBA Finals are priceless.
You will recall that before 2003-04 began, the Los Angeles Lakers signed free agents Karl Malone and Gary Payton. This gave the purple a starting lineup of Shaq, Kobe, Mailman, the Glove, and Devean George. Just for fun, they brought Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, and Horace Grant off the bench.
The Lakers got off to a fast start, but then trouble set in. Kobe's rape proceedings became a major distraction. Mailman went down with an injury. Ditto for Grant. Finally, dissension overtook the Zen Mistress and the Fakers.
Somehow the Lakeshow recovered by April, winning the Pacific division with a strong end-of–season push, after which they cruised through the playoffs, dismantling a hobbled Wolves team in the WCFs. Much like the 2008 NBA Finals, there weren't many pundits forecasting success for the Eastern Conference champs. The Lakers would win the first two at home, and then win 2 of 3 in Detroit to secure championship #15, or so went conventional wisdom.
We all know the Pistons won the championship in five, winning one of the first two in LA, and then sweeping all three games at Auburn Hills. While it’s always fun to savor a good-old-fashioned pummeling of the purple, the real treat is getting to relive the pummeling inside the mind of the Zen Mistress.
In a few pages, Jackson eliminates any lingering doubts as to the origin of the nutty excuses offered by the Lakers as the 2008 NBA Finals began to slip from their grasp.
You thought blaming the rims at the Gah-den was something new?
In 2004, the Zen Mistress ordered his team to take two extra hours of shooting practice to get accustomed to the inflexible rims in Detroit.
You thought Jackson went overboard blaming the Refs for the 2-0 deficit against Boston?
Try this one on for size.
Against Detroit Jackson claimed that the refs had tired of the series, and started calling phantom fouls on Shaq to hasten the beginning of their summer vacation. Earlier in the chapter he blamed no-calls on Tayshaun Prince for Kobe's struggles in the first two games, and then blamed the overall foul disparity for the Lakers first three losses to Detroit. Jackson even had Kurt Rambis call the league offices to complain.
You thought Phil-Dog was grasping at straws in blaming tendonitis for Odom’s ineffectiveness this past June?
Compared to blaming the 2004 loss on injuries to Grant, Malone, Fisher and others, the Zen Mistress was quite restrained in 2008.
While nothing quite compares to Jackson shamelessly questioning the authenticity and severity of the injury to Paul Pierce in game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, it is still humorous to read the Zen Mistress lament the “long plane ride across the country” to Michigan in 2004. Big Chief Triangle really must have needed some therapeutic assistance when he traveled to the other Coast for the 2008 Finals.
Having just spent several days reading an interview with a real master of people management and team motivation, it is somewhat sickening to see these lame excuses offered up not once but twice by another coach thought to be Red’s equal. As the LA Times, Boston Herald, and others have said about the Zen Mistress, maybe the league has passed him by.
At some level you have to give the guy some props for winning nine titles. But you have to take some away for being a whining broken record.