Draft Recap – Unexpected Sub Plots

As I was following the draft last Thursday, there were two – I think – pretty substantial subplots to this draft that kind of just popped up out of no where.

Subplot A: Phil Jackson

I don’t know if ESPN was simulcasting (I don’t think they were), but I listened to most of the first half of the draft on the radio. Said radio crew landed Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to chat for five minutes before the draft started. Most of said interview was your standard fodder:

“Boy, we sure had to hustle to take a look at the draft board. You might have heard, but we won the championship seven days ago in the most watched NBA game since MJ beat the Jazz in 1998. Oh, mercy me, you can imagine how challenging it must have been to figure out a draft strategy in between planning the parade and pimping out copies of Ron Artest’s new single ‘Champion.’ As in NBA Champion, bitches.”

Okay, he obviously didn’t say that, but he might as well have.

Anyhoo, the ESPN crew asked him about Phil Jackson.

Up until last night, I hadn’t seriously considered the possibility that Jackson wouldn’t be returning next year – much like I haven’t seriously considered the possibility that Brett Favre may retire –  but Kupchak’s response actually made me think this ‘Phil is done’ deal may be real.

I can’t find the transcript, but the exchange was basically this:

ESPN: Will Jackson be back?

Kupchak: I don’t have anything to say about that at this time…

(Please note that he very well could have ended it there and NO ONE would have pressed him)

Kupchak: I saw him in the office yesterday and we chatted a little bit. Basically we… I think that… I think it all comes down to his health. He’s got to find out what he needs to in order to decide if he can even make it through another season, and if so, is it worth it to him to try. He’s going to have to do what’s best for him, and he told us that we’ll all know more in about a week.

ESPN: What about money? We’ve heard a rumor that Jackson was asked to take a substantial pay cut to come back next year.

Kupchak: That won’t be an issue. We won’t let that be an issue for him. He needs to just figure out what’s happening with his health and see if he can even make it through another NBA season.

Wow. That’s totally not the answer I expected. ‘See if he can make it another season?’ And for what? He’s got 11 championships; that’s the record for most rings won by a coach (Red Auerbach won 9). What exactly would motivate him to go for another one? Especially at the risk of his health? If money really isn’t a problem, and he’s still talking about hanging it up…

Look, in my opinion, if Jackson retires the Lakers are no longer the odds-on favorite to win the West next year, or the year after that. Moreover, I say that if the LeBron sweepstakes is the biggest story in basketball right now, this is suddenly the second biggest story AND if he retires, I think it has a bigger impact than wherever LeBron lands.

Subplot B) Portland fires their GM Kevin Pritchard right before the draft, but continues to let him run the draft from the War Room, wherein he proceeds to draft 3 players and execute a pretty respectable trade before packing up and leaving. Wow.

I haven’t seen anything substantive about how or why this sort of thing could happen, but the rumor I’ve heard is that Pritchard attempted an end around to take over Larry Miller’s position as President (no, Jazz fans – obviously not THAT Larry Miller – though I was confused for a little while too).

How stressful must it have been in the Blazers war room last night? This is a team that was favored to be a top 4 team in the West, armed with a crazy level of young talent with a target lock set on the Lakers. Instead, by the All-Star break it was clear that they were a team hampered with injuries, a squad with no clear first point of offense. They stumble into the Playoffs as the 6th seed (and finish 4th in the Northwest), and Phoenix shows them the door in six game in the first round. Next thing you know, you’re dealing with an inner-office overthrow which culminates in the GM getting fired but STILL CALLING THE SHOTS in the draft war room.

NBA Action. It’s Fantastic.

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~ by djepperson on June 25, 2010.

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