In a Sports Illustrated Q&A published Tuesday to promote his new memoir Eleven Rings, Phil Jackson indirectly lobbed criticism at D'Antoni and the Lakers while breaking down the reasons for their disappointing season.
SI: When you look at the Lakers now, considering that they've had a lot of personnel changes and injuries, what do you see?
Jackson: They just don't put the ball in the post. They'll use a screen-roll to get the guy in the post. But there's no consistent plan to do it. Yes, Kobe will go in there. But Dwight [Howard] just doesn't get any touches. They've basically eliminated his assets.
SI: But wouldn't his assets be rolling off the screen-roll, with either [Steve] Nash or Kobe?
Jackson: You want the ball 10 feet away from the basket. Throw it into the post, make them double-team and have everybody around to make shots. That's what Shaq could do. That's where you have the Robert Horrys, the Derek Fishers and the Rick Foxes sitting out there getting wide-open jumpers.
The issue with D’Antoni is that he inherited a roster that didn’t match his offensive philosophy. D’Antoni’s offenses in Phoenix and New York relied on ball movement and chucking treys from downtown. In Orlando, Dwight Howard was surrounded by snipers that prevented defenses from collapsing on him. The Lakers lack reliable shooters. Instead, D’Antoni was stuck with a Hall of Fame one-on-one iso specialist and a perennial All-Star seven-footer who thrived scoring in the post. Most coaches would have game planned around those two but D’Antoni is stubborn and married to his system.
Jackson also questioned why D’Antoni has been unable to find a scheme that Gasol and Howard can use together, effectively.
We won two championships that way [with two big men]. Pau is one of the best big men in the game. I mean, Pau Gasol is going to be in the Hall of Fame.
Gasol is very versatile but he's not a Boris Diaw or Steve Novak-style stretch-4. There's no surprise that Phil is criticizing D'Antoni. He'll never admit it, but he surreptitiously wanted the Lakers vacant position back in November. More importantly, he's also a fan of Dwight Howard and he probably would have utilized him and Gasol more effectively. He also once told Dan Patrick that he'd rather start a team with Howard over LeBron James. Phil wanted to be the Lakers Red Auerbach, but Jim Buss didn’t want to be overshadowed by his sister’s boyfriend. Now, it appears that Howard is building his life-raft out of LA and Jackson is watching the ship sink from afar.