Phil Jackson won't be an assistant
LOS ANGELES -- Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw will not be bringing Phil Jackson with him to the Mile High City.
"No," Shaw said with a laugh Sunday when asked if he had any plans to coerce the Zen Master out of retirement to join his coaching staff. "He can be my Tex? No. No."
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Tex, of course, is Tex Winter, the Hall of Fame assistant coach heralded with developing the triangle offense and teaching it to Jackson, leading to those 11 combined championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
While getting Jackson to leave sunny Los Angeles for snowy Denver full time might be out of the question, Shaw said he hopes to have Jackson spend time with his team this season on one of the trips the Nuggets make to L.A. to play the Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers.
"I want to invite him to come and watch us practice and just kind of see how I'm doing," said Shaw, who recently helped former Lakers assistant Frank Hamblen connect with former Lakers player and current Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue to observe Clippers training camp in San Diego.
Shaw says he has already reached out to Jackson for advice on how to run his team and recently shared time with the 68-year-old Jackson at a coaches' clinic in L.A.
"He looks good," Shaw said. "He still has his wits about him."
Shaw's ties to the purple and gold run deeper than just Jackson -- he won three rings in his four seasons with the team as a player and an additional two in his eight seasons as an assistant coach -- but he claims he is settled with the fact that he was passed over to become the Lakers coach in 2011 in favor of Mike Brown and not even given an interview with the job went to Mike D'Antoni last November.
"Going to Indiana the last two years was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, in retrospect looking back at it," said Shaw, who was the associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers before landing the Nuggets job. "I had only known one way of doing things and being under Frank Vogel in Indiana and seeing the way that he prepared for the games, the way he practiced, was more along the lines of what the majority of the teams I would imagine do things. Phil had a very unique way of doing things so it was nice (to be in Indiana). I feel more well-rounded now, or more rounded I should say, having experienced the last two years in Indiana."
Shaw might not have any regrets about how his path to Denver ended up, but he still has plenty of history in L.A. no matter what. He rattled off a list of names before his Nuggets played the Lakers in Sunday's preseason game -- Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Kurt Rambis and Mark Madsen (or "Mad Dog" as he affectionately called him) -- who are currently with L.A. and were either his teammates or coaching peers before he left.
And as a former teammate and coach of Bryant, he was uniquely qualified to wager a guess to how the star guard will return from his torn Achilles.
"If there is anybody out there that can come back from this, with all the wear and tear he has and at the age that he is, he can," Shaw said. "I wouldn't bet against him. It's a tough injury to come back from, but no doubt in my mind he can do anything that he has his mind set to."
But Shaw doesn't expect to see Bryant, who had yet to return from his trip to Germany for a right knee procedure as of Sunday night according to D'Antoni, on the court when the Lakers start the regular season on Oct. 29 against the Clippers.
"I think he'll be out for the season opener," Shaw said. "I think that's realistic to say. But I believe that he'll take off right where he left off when he does come back. (There is) no doubt in my mind that he will."
Shaw said that Bryant would have the same championship expectation for the Lakers that he always had before, but that the lowered pressure on the team from the outside after the loss of Dwight Howard this past offseason will benefit his former team.
"It may be good for them to be able to kind of fly under the radar," Shaw said. "They're going to be competitive. You know the expectation level around here is as high as anywhere else, but for one of the first times in a while they won't come into the season as a favorite or one of the top contenders in the league, so it will be a different vantage point that they're coming from and that may help them out."
Even without Jackson on his staff, Shaw said he tries to emulate Jackson's patience and may run the triangle offense in Denver in the future, with the right personnel.
For the time being, he is trying to mold the Nuggets -- who won 57 games during the regular season last year only to lose in the first round of the playoffs -- into a team Jackson would approve of without him.
"It won't be the same break-neck pace that it was last year," Shaw said. "My experience playing here (in L.A.), we played the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns, teams that got up and down, made it a fast pace and won a lot of games during the regular season that didn't necessarily translate to going deep into the playoffs.
"So, we will play a more traditional style in terms of trying to develop an inside game. Trying to get better in halfcourt execution and being a better defensive and a better rebounding team. So, the pace will be a little bit slower. We still want to take advantage of our speed and the youth that we have, especially when we're playing at home, but it will be a more traditional style of inside-out play."