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Roland Lazenby on Tex, Shaq, Phil, Jordan and NBA Defenses

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Who's Not On Tex's All-Winter Team For The NBA's 60th Anniversary


Lindy's Pro Basketball Annual (which I have edited for the past 14 years) hits the newstands this week, and once again it features the All-Winter team, selected by none other than Tex Winter himself.

This year's edition has a special feature in that it also includes an NBA 60th anniversary team. The 60 years of the NBA almost perfectly coincides with Tex's own coaching career, in college and the pros. So I talked him into selecting the All-Time All-Winter team. It's not made up of the "game's greatest players."

Instead I encouraged him to select the great players that he would like to coach.

It's worth noting that Winter left former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal off his list. Winter said he did so because O'Neal was not someone he would care to coach.

Many Lakers fans are aware that the 84-year-old Winter has long coached superstars and high-salaried NBA players without coddling them. A younger assistant coach, with less stature, might have never considered fussing at Michael Jordan about throwing correct chest passes, but Winter has always been rather fearless in his coaching.

Unfortunately, he and O'Neal never got off to a good start in Los Angeles, where Winter played a major role in organizing coach Phil Jackson and the triangle offense the Lakers used to win three straight championships.

Winter tried to correct O'Neal on certain facets of the game, but the supersensitive center always seemed to recoil from those efforts.
The serious breech between the assistant coach and Shaq didn't come until the 2004 season when O'Neal out of nowhere told Winter to "shut the f*** up" during a team film session.

A stunned Winter said that never in lengthy coaching career had a player been so extremely disrespectful. In fact, Winter has long been known for earning the respect and allegiance of an array of players, from the most difficult (Dennis Rodman) to the most hard-headed (Kobe Bryant).
O'Neal's behavior in the 2004 incident is noteworthy for several reasons. First, O'Neal always describes himself as someone who respects his elders. That's pretty much a self-promoting crock.

Second, Phil Jackson wrote a supposed "inside" book on the season, which was really a document aimed at cementing Jackson's political position with the team. Strange that Jackson devoted so much ink to his allegation that Kobe Bryant was "uncoachable," yet somehow he managed to avoid telling his readers the details of the major incident involving O'Neal. Yes, Jackson discussed the incident in "The Last Season," but his failure to disclose the details about the Lakers' coaching climate ought to be grounds for readers seeking a refund for the cover price of "The Last Season."

Winter said Jackson did visit with his center about apologizing for his shocking behavior. And the next day at practice, O'Neal dutifully gave Winter a half-hearted hug and apology.

It's a shame Jackson didn't attempt to present a fair and balanced picture of the team when he wrote his book.

Winter has enjoyed affiliations with some of the game's greatest stars. Others, he has admired from afar. His choices created some interest in a recent post when I pointed out that Tex had included Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.

Winter said Wade was selected because of his amazing efficiency as a scorer.

"I love Dwyane Wade," Winter told me. "All-around, he's probably the best guard in the league. Individually, he's not as good as Kobe, as far as quickness and skills, etc. But I've never seen a player score the way he does, with such efficiency."

Winter went on to point out that players such as Wade and Bryant have a distinct advantage under the NBA's new rules interpretations that have officials whistling touch fouls on the perimeter.

Winter's criticism prompted me to write another article for LIndy's called "The Death of Defense?"

Here's the intro to that story, which involves a discussion of the new way officials are now calling the game.

THE DEATH OF DEFENSE

It remains one of the enduring images of NBA lore—Joe Dumars guarding a determined young Michael Jordan in the 1990 Eastern Conference playoffs.
Dumars of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons, the league’s two-time defending champs, looked like a gaucho corralling the ultimate toro, his feet moving furiously (maybe the best defensive slide in the history of the game), one forearm firmly barred into Jordan to keep contact, the other bent arm thrust into the air, giving Dumars his only hope of keeping his balance while trying to ride the Jordan whirlwind.

Jerry West watched the performance and remarked privately that most people considered Isiah Thomas the Pistons’ superstar, but West pointed out that it was Dumars who was the supreme talent.

Why?

Well, West said, both Thomas and Dumars could push the envelope offensively, “but Joe’s defense sets him apart.”

Just how good was that defense?

It left a supremely disappointed Jordan sobbing at the back of the team bus when the series was over (it’s also probably the only NBA defense ever to spawn a best-selling book: Sam Smith’s ‘The Jordan Rules’).

Indeed, it was a formative moment in pro basketball history because it brought Jordan the ultimate challenge and propelled him toward a greatness that fascinated a global audience. Whether they liked pro basketball or not, people felt compelled to watch “His Airness” grow up against the Pistons’ physical challenge.

“I think that ‘Jordan Rules’ defense, as much as anything else, played a part in the making of Michael Jordan,” said Tex Winter, who was an assistant coach for that Chicago team. The 1990 loss forced Jordan and the Bulls to find an answer to Detroit’s muscle.

“Those Jordan Rules were murder,” Winter explained. “The fact that we could win the next year even though they were playing that defense says everything about Jordan as a competitor. Any lesser player would have folded his tent.”

Jordan had to dig deeper to respond to the Pistons, and his effort pushed his Bulls to six championships over the next eight seasons.

The unfortunate footnote to this legacy is that under an interpretation of the rules adopted by the NBA last season, if Dumars were playing today he would not be allowed to guard Jordan so physically, or perhaps even guard him at all.

Today Dumars is the chief basketball executive of the team he once led as a player. He’s an honest man, which means he chooses his words carefully.
Asked in July if he could defend Jordan under today’s interpretation of the rules, Dumars first laughed, then offered a long pause before replying, “It would have been virtually impossible to defend Michael Jordan based on the way the game’s being called right now.”

If you're so inclined, pick up a copy of Lindy's and join the debate over the NBA's decision to change its foul rules interpretations. That decision made a dramatic impact on the game and perhaps even decided the league championship last June.

"I think it hurts the game," Winter said of the changes. "It's pretty hard to guard someone on the outside — especially a player with a lot of quickness — if you can't even touch them."


Roland Lazenby is the author of The Show, an oral history of the Los Angeles Lakers published by McGraw-Hill.


http://lakernoise.blogspot.com/
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Comments

  • It's worth noting that Winter left former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal off his list. Winter said he did so because O'Neal was not someone he would care to coach.

    Many Lakers fans are aware that the 84-year-old Winter has long coached superstars and high-salaried NBA players without coddling them. A younger assistant coach, with less stature, might have never considered fussing at Michael Jordan about throwing correct chest passes, but Winter has always been rather fearless in his coaching.

    Unfortunately, he and O'Neal never got off to a good start in Los Angeles, where Winter played a major role in organizing coach Phil Jackson and the triangle offense the Lakers used to win three straight championships.

    Winter tried to correct O'Neal on certain facets of the game, but the supersensitive center always seemed to recoil from those efforts.
    The serious breech between the assistant coach and Shaq didn't come until the 2004 season when O'Neal out of nowhere told Winter to "shut the f*** up" during a team film session.

    A stunned Winter said that never in lengthy coaching career had a player been so extremely disrespectful. In fact, Winter has long been known for earning the respect and allegiance of an array of players, from the most difficult (Dennis Rodman) to the most hard-headed (Kobe Bryant).
    O'Neal's behavior in the 2004 incident is noteworthy for several reasons. First, O'Neal always describes himself as someone who respects his elders. That's pretty much a self-promoting crock.
    Tex Winters has always been pro-Kobe and anti-Shaq, it's no surprise that that old gizzer would write stuff like this.
  • KobeWanKenobiKobeWanKenobi PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    If Tex is pro-Kobe how come he was quoted as saying the following during the 2002-03 season:
    Longtime assistant coach Tex Winter, the gadfly of the coaching staff, was a lot more direct when he confronted Kobe in the locker room after the game. "You played stupidly," he said, bluntly.

    Kobe bristled. He believes that the triangle is boring, is stifling. Hey, even M.J. said it was "a white man's offense." Kobe's talents need more room. It's time to win a different way -- Kobe's way.

    Or, as Kobe responded to Winter's no-sugar-coating criticism: "You coached stupidly."

    Needless to say, this did not go down well with Tex. As he drove me back to my hotel, he proceeded to harangue Kobe all the while. The adjectives came flying out of his long diatribe: "Out of control ... selfish ... stubborn ... uncoachable." And worse.

    Later, when I mentioned to Phil what Tex had said, he just laughed, explaining Tex is a perfectionist who overreacts to ugly losses and ugly wins.

    Speaking of the former, the very next night the Lakers got trounced in Portland 102-90, with Kobe scoring 25 on modest 9-for-18 shooting. For the first quarter (and only the first quarter), Kobe made a minimal attempt to "line up the offense." Yet, as we watched the proceedings on TV, Tex, who's not traveling to away games with the team, was soon saying, "There he goes again, off on his own selfish trip."

    http://espn.go.com/page2/s/rosen/021101.html

    Winter has always been a straight shooter and unafraid to tell the truth and has always spoken both praises and criticism on Shaq, Kobe, Phil, even Michael Jordan. Even early in the offseason he has spoken the need to improve guard play. A dig at both Kobe and Smush.

    The difference is, Kobe respects Tex's criticism. Shaq on the other hand considers Tex's criticisms as rubbish. And in that regard, Kobe is a lot more mature than Shaq.
  • If Tex is pro-Kobe how come he was quoted as saying the following during the 2002-03 season:
    He was shooting it straight back in 2002-03 alright. Thanks for the clipping KWK, it's actually the first time I've read Tex say anything sane about Kobe.

    Tex has digressed to a Kobe-kiss-@ss after the Laker break-up though. He'll probably quip about Kobe every now and then just to keep his 'straight shooter' rep intact, but from what I've read him say since the break-up it's pretty obvious he's taken Kobe's side of things. AND that sh!t ain't flying with me!
  • KobeWanKenobiKobeWanKenobi PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    p**ty t*ng wrote:
    He was shooting it straight back in 2002-03 alright. Thanks for the clipping KWK, it's actually the first time I've read Tex say anything sane about Kobe.

    Tex has digressed to a Kobe-kiss-@ss after the Laker break-up though. He'll probably quip about Kobe every now and then just to keep his 'straight shooter' rep intact, but from what I've read him say since the break-up it's pretty obvious he's taken Kobe's side of things. AND that sh!t ain't flying with me!

    Then how come Tex said the following just this summer?
    • Improvement from Bryant. “Kobe has got to continue to lift his game, particularly from the standpoint of team play,” Winter said, repeating a refrain that he sends Bryant’s way on a constant basis.

    That's a direct dig on Kobe's individualistic tendencies.
  • Rocker09Rocker09 Next Gen. Tennis Star
    Tex is probably the most balanced person when it comes to the shaq,kobe,phil issue....
  • Then how come Tex said the following just this summer?



    That's a direct dig on Kobe's individualistic tendencies.
    That's the occasional quip I've been talking about. Besides that criticism or encouragement on Tex' part is common knowledge, it's hardly a 'dig' on Kobe.
  • Rocker09Rocker09 Next Gen. Tennis Star
    ^face it, you can't handle the truth about shaq......
  • "Ray Allen lead the Sonics to within 2 games of beating the Spurs in the 2004-05 Western Conf. Semifinals, with a roster half as talented as the past two Lakers teams we've fielded. Ray didn't have to score 81pts in that season neither."

    Now that's a dig.
  • KobeWanKenobiKobeWanKenobi PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    True its a dig, but a largely inaccurate one too.

    Laker lineup in 2004-05
    C - Mihm, Grant
    PF - Odom. Cook
    SF - Butler, Jones
    SG - Bryant, George
    PG - Atkins, Brown

    Sonics Lineup in 2004-05
    C - James, Fortson, Potapenko
    PF - Evans, Collison
    SF - Lewis, Radmanovic
    SG - Allen, Murray
    PG - Daniels, Ridnour

    The Sonics have a better bench with Fortson, Collison, Radmanovic, Murray and Ridnour over the Lakers Grant, Cook, George, Jones and Brown.

    In the starting lineup, take away both Kobe and Allen and Sonics still have the better a better mix of players with James, Evans, Lewis, Murray, Daniels over LA's Mihm, Odom, Butler, George and Atkins.
  • ^^I'd have to disagree with you on that one. Looking at their respective supporting casts (limiting it to the top 3) Odom, Butler and Atkins for the Lakers were already certified double digit scorers at that point. With career scoring averages (at that point) of 16, 13.6 and 10.3 respectively. Allen on the otherhand only had Lewis, Radmanovic and Murray to back him up, with career scoring averages of 15.9 (took out Lewis' rookie year), 10.3 and 10.4 (took out Murray's playing years before he had the big break in Seatle).
  • KobeWanKenobiKobeWanKenobi PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Atkins was essentially a SG in a PG's body. The Lakers have no one to handle the ball and distribute effectively. In addition, at 5'11 1/2, he also couldn't play any defense so he's a liability on the opposite side of the court. His substitute, Tierre Brown or "Tierrible" to Laker fans couldn't pass, couldn't defend and couldn't shoot.

    Murray, when Allen was injured a few seasons back, averaged 20 points per game. While he may not be Allen's caliber, he can at least provide enough scoring cover that was lost to Allen's injury.
  • Yup, Flip Murray was my man in Seatle, but the guy is just 6'3". Anyway I'm not going to discount his value as part of Allen's supporting crew because he really was part of the reason Seatle did well that year.

    Atkins is what he is, much like Damon Jones. If you use him right you'll get a lot of bang for your buck.
  • KobeWanKenobiKobeWanKenobi PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Anyway, going back to the hypothetical lineup in our discussion, the Seattle backcourt would be Murray and Daniels. Daniels at 6'4 has the height as well as the defensive presence to go up against SGs should Murray encounter problems. Thus, his height won't be much of a problem.

    It would take the perfect scenario for Atkins to produce. He has been traded away by the Celtics, the Lakers, and was cut by the Wizards.
  • Rocker09Rocker09 Next Gen. Tennis Star
    Atkins is a great shooter but that's pretty much it...Daniels has the versatility which makes him a great compliment for allen...
  • In my opinion Atkins was in an ideal situation to produce in LA. With Phil's system not really needing a true PG, he could have been a more athletic Steve Kerr or BJ Armstrong (now where have I seen that).
  • KobeWanKenobiKobeWanKenobi PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Ideal for Atkins but not for LA. Remember, the trade was initially Mihm, Atkins, Marcus Banks, LA's future 2nd round pick for Payton and Fox. This later was changed to Mihm, Atkins, Jumaine Jones and a first round pick after Payton refused to report to the Celtics.

    LA really wanted Banks to be the starting point guard, with Atkins coming in from the bench. But when Payton refused to report, the Lakers had to ask for a lesser player in order for the trade to push through.

    Instead of having a young and excellent defender starting at the point, LA got a small offense-minded and defenseless point guard. Atkins couldn't defend the point and on offense was shoot first, taking away looks for both Kobe and Odom.
  • Instead of having a young and excellent defender starting at the point, LA got a small offense-minded and defenseless point guard. Atkins couldn't defend the point and on offense was shoot first, taking away looks for both Kobe and Odom.
    Well I guess Kobe ain't no MJ then.
  • KobeWanKenobiKobeWanKenobi PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    While Jordan had the ballhandling skills, he still needed Scottie Pippen to take the ballhandling chores and enable Michael to concentrate on scoring on offense. Jordan played wing in the triangle which is primarily the SF position while Pippen played initiator which is primarily the PG.

    During the 2004-05 season, Kobe was both the primary scorer and primary ballhandler since Atkins wasn't a good distributor while Odom was made a power forward by Rudy T and later Frank Hamblen.

    In the 2005-06 season, Phil Jackson made Odom the primary ballhandler or initiator, freeing Kobe of some of the ballhandling chores and making him play the wing. Net result is a career high in scoring for Bryant.
  • i agree with kobewankenobi.. and yes, im a kobe fan!!! hehehe!
  • In the 2005-06 season, Phil Jackson made Odom the primary ballhandler or initiator, freeing Kobe of some of the ballhandling chores and making him play the wing. Net result is a career high in scoring for Bryant.
    Well mission accomplished then. Kobe Bryant NBA scoring champ.:eek:
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