Q: If you’re a coach, what do you do when a) your team is down by three points with 3.1 seconds remaining in the game, b) your team possesses the most-feared crunch-time assassin in the NBA, c) your team badly needs a win for team morale, and d) homecourt advantage for a potential Finals rematch against the Orlando Magic is on the line?
A: You design a play to get Pau Gasol a contested three-pointer at the top of the key, obviously.
With his Los Angeles Lakers trailing the Portland Trail Blazers by three points, Phil Jackson decided against giving the ball to Kobe Bryant. Or even Derek Fisher. Or Ron Artest. Or any other Laker who had hit at least one three-pointer at some point this season. Jackson instead designed a play for Gasol, he of (at the time) only four three-point attempts this year. He of four misses, too.
Kobe Bryant said of Jackson’s head-scratching decision, “When have you ever seen me set a damn down-screen? That was interesting. [Jackson] just drew it up. I just cracked up.”
I don’t think it’s ever a good sign when your star player “cracks up” at a late-game play call.
Bryant later said he was “very concerned” with the Lakers play right now, but Jackson’s play calling showed that he doesn’t share much of Kobe’s concern. To him, the regular season has clearly devolved into nothing more than a joke.