Here is a link to my Thursday column about Mark Jackson. The full text runs below:
Put aside the euphoria of the Warriors’ excellent season. Put aside they’re in the playoffs the second straight year. Put aside all of that for a moment. Admittedly, it’s a lot to put aside.
In a sense, these playoffs are all about coach Mark Jackson’s future. From everything we’ve read, from everything we’ve heard, from the Bat Signal beaming bright over Oakland, we understand — think we understand — the playoffs are Jackson’s big test. To coach or not to coach. Do or die.
Translated, that means Jackson wants a contract extension — he has one year left on his contract. The Warriors have dallied over his extension. If he doesn’t get one after this season, he’s either a lame duck — very bad — or, more likely, he’s out.
Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob has complained publicly about the team’s lack of game readiness and about crummy home losses to crummy road teams. From these complaints we reach two conclusions: 1) Lacob is a very hard grader. 2) Jackson needs to get past the first round of the playoffs or he’s dead meat. Maybe he needs to get past the second round to avoid qualifying for the dead-meat category.
Jackson’s quest for a contract extension has a high degree of difficulty. Key players are injured.
Andre Iguodala is in and out of the lineup with knee tendinitis. The Warriors need Iguodala healthy for veteran leadership, smart passing and great defense. On offense, he’s a bust.
David Lee is suffering with a nerve problem in his leg but should be available for the playoffs. The Warriors need Lee for smart, efficient, productive offense and for powerful rebounding. He is not a good one-on-one defender, but he works hard on defense and functions well within a team concept of defense. Chris Mullin operated the same way.
Andrew Bogut has busted ribs. This could be the killer injury for the Warriors. We know he won’t play in the first round. His participation in later rounds — if there are later rounds — is strictly TBA, as in iffy.
And, yes, Bogut gets hurt a lot. Not because he’s soft. He is a banger — the banger the Warriors need — and bangers bust their body parts. The Warriors will miss his banging in the playoffs.
Think of the team this way. The Warriors have an offensive focus and a defensive focus. Stephen Curry clearly is the offensive focus. He is the best jump shooter I ever saw. Name someone better.
And Bogut is the defensive focus. With Bogut on the floor, teams drive to the hoop at their own peril. He is a shot blocker and a shot changer. He is a shot murderer. He rebounds like crazy and he plays with a snarl on his face which says, “Don’t dare enter my zone.”
Jackson always says the Warriors are a defensive team. Bogut is the reason for that along with Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Curry does not make this list. Without Bogut, the Warriors aren’t nearly as good on defense. They are vulnerable to opponents driving the lane, making easy buckets, getting offensive rebounds. They aren’t as tough.
These injuries, especially Bogut’s, have major implications for Jackson’s future. If Bogut were around and if Lee and Iguodala were healthy and if the Warriors were to lose in the first round, you might say, “Jackson could not win with this team that is supposedly superior to last season’s team. And that is bad.”
You might question Jackson’s feel for substitutions in a game, for bringing the right guys in at the right time, for the rhythm of the whole thing. And you might conclude Jackson is a certain kind of coach, the kind who can improve a team, change its culture, but he’s not the kind who can bring a team to the elite level. You might think the Warriors need someone else to make the Warriors elite. New coach as closer.
And these would be reasonable conclusions.
They are not reasonable conclusions if the Warriors lose with Bogut on the bench. Despite your doubts about Jackson — we’re really talking about Lacob’s doubts — everyone wants this to be a fair fight. It’s hardly fair to judge Jackson if the Warriors make a quick exit from the playoffs when 60 percent of the starting lineup is hurt or missing in action. I am not saying they will make a quick exit. I merely am examining a possible case.
Of course, fairness hardly matters in the NBA. George Karl was Coach of the Year last season. After his Nuggets lost to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, Denver fired Karl. Fairness is a quaint concept.
Lacob can do whatever he wants. The Warriors are his fiefdom. Maybe he doesn’t like Jackson because of the turmoil on the coaching staff or because of the team’s up-and-down play or because he just doesn’t like him. Or maybe Lacob secretly loves Jackson.
But if Lacob does not extend Jackson after our theoretical first-round exit, it hardly seems evenhanded or equitable. There would be no way to judge Jackson, the case would be muddy and ambiguous. If Red Auerbach lost Bill Russell to broken ribs, you would assume his Celtics would have been diminished.
A while back, I asked Lacob if we could discuss Jackson. “There’s no percentage in it for me,” he said.
Figuring percentages is Lacob’s privilege. So is not talking to the media.
I have just one question: If the injured, incomplete Warriors get bounced in the first round, what’s the percentage for Jackson?
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