Phil Jackson’s brilliance has always been subtle. He never invented an offensive or defensive scheme that changed the game. He rarely made in-game adjustments that changed the entire dynamic of a contest. According to those who have played for PJ his true hoops acumen was on display mostly in practice.
All that being said the true measure of what made Phil so effective was revealed in how his players performed in key moments. Phil’s faith in his roster was paramount in filling both his hands with championship rings.
Most recently this exact quality was on display during the title run of 2010. When the hoops world was begging for Phil to bench Ron Artest amid a miserable playoff swoon, Jackson stayed the course. Knowing he’d need Ron at some point Jackson stuck to his guns and his faith was well rewarded.
Artest’s clutch shooting in crucial games proved to be instrumental in defeating the C’s in 7. While PJ’s gamble paid a king’s ransom during Ron’s first year in Los Angeles, Ron Ron’s second season was a roll of the dice that came up snake eyes.
Coaching veteran players is tough for any coach. Jackson just so happened to specialize in getting the most out of NBA vets. This is where Mike Brown finds his biggest challenge.
Unlike his time in Cleveland, Brown is stepping into a veteran locker room with big game experience. Getting the attention of his team and commanding the roster in Los Angeles is going to be Brown’s toughest task to date.
More to the point, getting more out of Ron Artest is going to be incredibly challenging.
Artest has never looked very comfortable as a Laker. He was lost in the triangle offense from day one and after two seasons has yet to find an offensive rhythm. Given Brown’s defensive acumen it seems likely he’ll get a lot out of Artest on that end of the floor. Offensively the Lakers are going to need more than token points being scored in garbage time.
Let’s not forget Artest was dropping 20+ a night at one point in his NBA career. Scorers like that don’t just become inept overnight. Artest has perhaps focused too much on being a defensive stalwart. Brown must find the right buttons to push in order to get Ron more aggressive and assertive on offense.
At this point trading Artest is not an option. Given his dwindling production and length of contract finding a suitor is highly improbable. Therefore Brown must make the most of whatever Ron has left in the tank. The Lakers can’t afford to have another lack luster season from Artest.
Highly coachable and known for being self motivated, Artest isn’t going to have a negative reaction to being challenged. The same year Artest emerged as a postseason hero Phil was overheard telling Pau not to pass the ball to Artest in crucial situations. Ron’s skin is thick to say the least. So long as Coach Brown doesn’t use the media as a means to motivate Ron then everything should be good.
No matter the approach Brown takes he has to make sure not to let Ron become a forgotten asset. While PJ’s hands-off approach did prove effective it also gave way to Artest becoming invisible. Brown will have to find a healthy balance between coaching up Ron and letting him do his thing. The last thing you want is for Artest to feel alienated. That is a Ron Ron that no coach can reach.