Return of Zen?
The Cleveland Cavaliers have reached out to Phil Jackson about their coaching vacancy. Jackson has been retired for the past couple seasons, but reportedly is feeling the itch to get back into the game. Jackson is a lifetime basketball guy and can never stay away from the game for long. He was a leading candidate for the Lakers position earlier this season after they fired Mike Brown. The organization chose, inexplicably, to go with Mike D'Antoni, effectively ending any possibility that Jackson would ever come back to the team. But would he think about taking his talents to Cleveland? What could they possibly have to offer?
Cleveland has been a veritable black hole since LeBron James left town for the South Beach lifestyle and the appeal of playing with Dwayne Wade and an ostrich (who I hear they have affectionately named Chris Bosh). Since the departure of James, Cleveland has managed to win less than 30 percent of their games. The roster doesn't have much talent. Cleveland is a small market in the middle of nowhere. The team does not have a history of winning, having their last playoff series victory come in 2008 with the aforementioned James. The last time Cleveland won a playoff series without LeBron was twenty years ago. All this would point to Cleveland not having a chance to land Jackson, one of the most successful and highly coveted coaches of all-time, right? Not so fast.
Cleveland, despite being nearly completely bereft of talent, does have one of the best young players in the game in point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving is developing into a player who could be a perennial All-Star. The rest of their roster, despite not being (in my opinion) very talented, is very young. They are the second youngest roster in the entire NBA. Young minds can be easily molded, and if there is anyone who can change the way people think and get the most out of a player, it's Jackson. Jackson is a master at using unconventional tactics to motivate his players and get more out of them than anyone else thought possible. Jackson has had the good fortune of coaching four of the 50 greatest players of all-time in Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant, but make no mistake about it, every single one of those players is better for having Jackson as a coach. He's a master at his craft, not just someone who is a product of circumstance. It's frequently harder to coach superstars than it is average players.
Another piece of the puzzle that should not be overlooked is the previously mentioned Lebron James. James' contract with Miami expires at the end of the 2014 season, and conventional wisdom says that he will once again test the free agent market. I would not put it past James and his ego to want to return to Cleveland, a place where he is still seen as a villain for deserting them, in an attempt to smooth things over with his hometown crowd. Above all, James still wants to be loved. He's done a lot of work to try to become a hardened player, and he has, but the media does still have an effect on him. If Phil Jackson were to come out of retirement and take the job in Cleveland, I can only imagine that would all but seal it in James' mind that he should go back to Cleveland to work with the coach who has won more titles than anyone in the history of the NBA. James would be able to put himself in the same company as his idols Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and I guarantee that thought would cross his mind.
Will Kyrie Irving and the possibility of LeBron James be enough to coax the great Phil Jackson out of retirement? We shall see. But no one should dismiss the possibility, and I for one, might take up the NBA again were it to happen.
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Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.