Phil Jackson says LeBron James travels on half of his possessions

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Don't Pity LeBron James


By JOHN DORN

It's a rag on today's NBA that you've probably grown used to hearing from the older generations: Every player travels and it never gets called. Count New York Knicks president Phil Jackson into that camp.

The increasingly cranky Knicks exec called out LeBron James particularly during an interview with Bleacher Report's Howard Beck. From there, the rant evolved into something of a requiem for the NBA of Jackson's generation -- a more fluid, beautiful game, according to the Zen Master.

"I watch LeBron James, for example," he said. "He might [travel] every other time he catches the basketball if he's off the ball. He catches the ball, moves both his feet. You see it happen all the time. There's no structure, there's no discipline, there's no 'How do we play this game' type of attitude. And it goes all the way through the game. To the point where now guys don't screen—they push guys off with their hands."

He concluded: "It struck me: How can we get so far away from the real truth of what we're trying to do? And if you give people structure, just like a jazz musician—he's gotta learn melody, and he's gotta learn the basic parts of music—and then he can learn how to improvise. And that's basically what team play is all about."

The agitation in Jackson's voice is evident.

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"The game actually has some beauty to it, and we've kind of taken some of that out of it to make it individualized," Jackson said. "It's a lot of who we are as a country, individualized stuff."

Indeed, Jackson seems much less concerned with validating the triangle than with the state of the game itself.

"When I watch some of these playoff games, and I look at what's being run out there, as what people call an offense, it's really quite remarkable to see how far our game has fallen from a team game," Jackson said. "Four guys stand around watching one guy dribble a basketball."


Since taking his current job with the Knicks, Jackson has been an easy target for insisting on running his triangle offense in today's league, which may now be advanced enough to outsmart the system. New York's franchise-worst 17-65 record last season has only made the 69-year-old more of a punchline. Ragging on the league's best offenses while he's accomplished next-to-nothing in his current role seems a bit out of touch.

His comments about James and the league as a whole won't win him over many supporters in today's largely progressive league. Until the Knicks acquire legitimate NBA talent this summer, it's impossible to tell if Jackson's mold of an NBA team can actually succeed.

But one thing's for certain: He'll never shy away from airing out his opinions -- no matter how old school they may be.

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