Saturday, June 19, 2004

Let the Rebuilding Commence

AFP/Getty Images[NBA] It's official. Phil Jackson won't be back as coach of the Lakers next year. ESPN is also reporting that Shaq is requesting a trade.

Replacing Phil most likely means replacing the triangle offense which means starting over from scratch. Who can you get that'll be a better coach than Phil Jackson? Kurt Rambis? Del Harris? Larry Brown and Jeff Van Gundy aren't going anywhere. The only person I can think of is Pat Riley. He has the credentials to instantly command respect and coach this team but I doubt he could be convinced to leave the Miami Heat.

It'd be a huge mistake to let Shaq go. The Lakers already lack depth at power forward and center. Who can you get that'll be a more dominant center than Shaquille O'Neal? At 32, he's still not too old to have MVP-caliber play. He'd be the final piece in a lot of other teams' puzzles. Not only would you lose him, you'd most likely have to beat him in order to win the title.

A Shaq-less and Phil-less Laker team with Kobe only has the potential to be as "good" as the Tracy McGrady-led Orlando Magic were last season. It would be doubly sad for L.A. if they burned their bridges with Jackson and O'Neal only to have Kobe sign with another team or get sentenced to prison. Then they'd be left with ... Devean George.

The one glimmer of hope is that Shaq is still under contract for next season. It's not too late to convince both him and Kobe that they'll do best playing together. But if Jackson couldn't do it, who can? Karl Malone maybe.

LAT- Doomsday For Lakers
LAT- Shaq Looking For A New Squad

(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)