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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Jackson Should Be Billed for This Laker Victory

June 04, 2002|T.J. Simers

It's one thing to have sports columnist Bill Plaschke criticize Laker Coach Phil Jackson, and quite another to have Red Auerbach take aim.

Let's face it, Auerbach has no idea what he's talking about.

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PLASCHKE, HOWEVER, is an award-winning columnist. At least that's what he tells me, and I don't think he'd make something like that up.

Under the headline: "If They Lose, Jackson Could End Up Taking It on the Chin," Plaschke delivered a stirring epistle last Friday. He wrote that Shaq and Kobe might stop listening to Phil if the Kings went on to win Game 6, and suggested nobody had more to lose than Phil if the Lakers fell to Sacramento that night.

That's a lot of pressure--having Plaschke on your back and possibly writing you out of the NBA history books with one loss--so I watched Phil closely to see how he might react. I also watched Jeanie, because that's just an old habit of mine.

Right away I noticed Phil talking more to Shaq and Kobe, undoubtedly concerned this might be the last night of his life. I was impressed. I figured some people read Plaschke, but never for a second did I think anyone agreed with what he wrote, and here was Phil trying to impress him. For all I know, I might be wrong about columnist Diane Pucin, too.

At one point, Phil waved his arms like he was coaching. I asked a Laker PR guy if he was going to put out a press release: "For the first time all year, the team would like to announce Jackson was seen doing something," but he was speechless.

Laker owner Jerry Buss said after the game, "I've never seen anything like that," and he might have been talking about the team's win, but I'm sure it could also have been said about the way Phil was working the game.

I watched the referees, and I could tell they had sympathy for Phil, and Plaschke's columns, of course, are known for inspiring sympathy, and so the referees seemed to make every call in favor of the Lakers. That had the Kings crying, another by-product of most Plaschke columns.

After the Laker win Friday night I expected local TV stations to talk to Plaschke about getting the best out of Phil. I know Plaschke used to be on TV in an Ed McMahon-like role, so this would've been a big break.

At the very least I expected Fox Sports Net's Jack Haley to hug him like he does all the Laker players after a win.

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I DON'T know who had the bigger comeback: The Lakers or Plaschke? There is no question Plaschke felt threatened by new columnist Rick Majerus, but like most great competitors, he responded like a pro, correctly pegging the Zen Master as the key to the series, while Majerus shifted his attention to Laker Boy.

Plaschke had Jackson on top of his game Sunday, too. Jackson told his players to meditate for 15 minutes, presumably telling them it was either that or they would have to read Plaschke's column from top to bottom.

Jackson was sweating, he was coaching so much, and I don't think anyone in L.A. has ever seen Jackson work up a sweat. The TV cameras caught him yelling at several players, and I wasn't sure he knew all their names. He was taking timeouts like he was really coaching. Phil was meeting the Plaschke challenge, and then and there I vowed to read Plaschke more often.

I even found myself defending Plaschke on the telephone Monday to some guy named "Alan" who was calling to trash him for not being a bigger Laker cheerleader. I told him, "it's just too bad Haley doesn't have a column.... ''

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I THINK it would be a nice gesture if Phil invited Plaschke to ride with him in the victory parade after the Nets are dispatched. After all, it was Plaschke who got Phil to coach in the team's two biggest games and saved Phil's standing in the basketball world. You could say Plaschke did as much for Phil as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaq and Kobe.

For my part, I've made the commitment now to not make fun of Plaschke any more. I plan to begin in earnest tomorrow.

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I JUST got this e-mail, and I don't know what to make of it.

Raffi Minasian wrote to say he was afraid to e-mail until after Game 7. He said he remembers when Lisa Leslie made 40 or 50 straight free throws and I told her, "jinx,'' and then in the following game she missed her first free throw.

"I didn't want to tell you this, you print it and then jinx the Lakers," he wrote.

"I recall you giving Phil a hard time about not wanting to coach the All-Star game so he could spend a weekend with Jeanie."

Phil has a pretty good track record for setting goals, and reaching them.

Minasian said he and a friend ran into Phil and Jeanie in a Palm Springs' Mexican restaurant on Feb. 7--during the break. They told Phil the Kings made them nervous, and said, "Whatever you do, don't let Sacramento get the best record."

"Phil smiled," Minasian recalled, "and told us, 'Actually, we want them to have the best record, so we can go up there for Game 7 and break their hearts.'"

He's not that good--is he? If he is, then what Plaschke wrote made no difference, and he might as well have written about Laker Boy.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Ralph:

"I know how mad the people of Philly got at you. Are you going to make fun of New Jersey like you did Philadelphia during last year's NBA Finals?"

I have no intention of keeping Jimmy Hoffa company.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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