I wrote back in July about parallels between this lockout and the last one that resulted in lost games. The largest one at the time was that big time players retired. Michael Jordan then and Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming this time around. It turns out the much larger one is the loss of games. I don’t know if we’ll be lucky enough to get 50 games as they did back in the “’98-’99” season which ended up just being the ’99 season. I’ve been seeing tweets lately about Mike James. It took me a minute to register that, yeah, that’s the former Cavaliers coach who is taking over for Phil Jackson in Los Angeles!
Once we get back to basketball, it’ll be a different world. Shaq will be in the TNT studio with Chuck and Kenny and Ernie. Yao will be back in China, owning his former team, pushing the NBA as a special contributor for the league. Phil Jackson will be, umm, Phil will be…up in Montana? Wherever Phil Jackson will be, it won’t be on the Lakers bench. The last time this happened the Lakers had Rudy Tomjanovich for a chunk of the year, before he was diagnosed with cancer and the Lakers didn’t make the Playoffs.
Either before Rudy T. was hired or after, there was a long dance between the Lakers and Duke’s Head Coach Mike Krzyewski. The “would he, won’t he” play went on for a wild weekend and a week leading up to with with Mike finally saying that no, he couldn’t make himself walk away from his lifetime contract at the program he made a dynasty.
Phil Jackson is a big deal. He’s got 11 championships and a winning percentage north of .700. He’s coached Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, arguably 3 of the top 5 players of the last 30 years and certainly, 4 of the top 20 of all time, in my estimation.
My concern is, will the Lakers be able to compete with Mike Brown at the helm as well as they have for the last 6 years and then the 5 before that year he took off? I don’t know. I think with the extended loss of games and a possibility of a fall off with Los Angeles, there is a possibility we’ll see a dip in interest deeper than it could have been expected otherwise.
A chunk of the schedule missing, big, huge deal, bigger than anything else. 2 cornerstone superstars missing, well, not that big a deal since both were in the downward (spiral for Yao) slope of their careers. Missing a legendary coach with the most popular and storied franchise? That could be bigger than most people think.