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The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling. It's times like this when a team needs good coaching the most. And Lakers coach Phil Jackson thinks he has devised just the plan to get his team back to its winning ways.
"It's the octagon offense," Jackson told reporters today. "It's very much like the triangle offense. It has a lot of the same principles. But there's a twist. I think it will be very hard for the opponent to match up against."
Likely because Jackson's octagon offense will put eight players on the court at once or three extra than the other team has. Lakers point guard Derek Fisher says the octagon offense showed great promise in practice.
"We still have a long way to go until it's running right," he said. "But I did find it a little bit easier to penetrate when there was nobody guarding me. I'd say I got into the lane about half the time."
"I like some of it," said Lakers star Kobe Bryant. "A lot more guys are open. But often those guys are still Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Jordan Farmar, who can't hit wide open shots either. So I think I'll usually just run the shot clock down and then try to create my own shot. Just like the triangle offense."
Then there is the issue of spacing with eight players on offense in the half-court set. At a recent practice, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom kept running into each other. In one sequence, Bynum somehow became caught inside Odom's jersey.
And there are those who feel that even if Jackson's octagon offense frees up the Lakers offense, it will only make them even lazier on defense resulting in more Laker defeats, albeit in much higher scoring games.
Then there is the matter of the offense having too many players on the court by three.
"The Lakers will be called for a penalty the moment they try to put the ball in play with that offense," said an NBA front office source. "I think this is more evidence that Phil Jackson actually knows very little about basketball. He's just a guy who has been fortunate enough to be sitting there with great players on his teams."
Jackson discounts concerns that the octagon offense will get his team whistled for too many men on the court.
"If it does and he can fine me if he wants for saying this it would be just another example of David Stern being narrow-minded in his thinking," said Jackson. "I have come up with something revolutionary here, and it shouldn't just be squashed due to some outdated rules about five players."
Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks, recently named the NBA's Coach of the Year, says the Thunder have been preparing for the octagon offense in practice.
"It presents a challenge," he said. "We will really have to be alert and communicate about where the cutters are and who is open. But hopefully not too many people will be open because we plan on putting 10 guys on the court at a time."
Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic won his second straight NBA defensive player of the year award today, but refused to accept it at a scheduled press conference. "Nah. No thank you," said Howard. "And who are you to give me an award? You don't know me."
The All-Star center said that he appreciated the defensive honor, but reiterated that he wanted nothing to do with it.
"People try to give me stuff all the time, but you have to question their intentions," said Howard. "So I take this award and then what? What are they going to ask for in return? You don't know. You don't. Somebody in my position, I have to look out for me. I have to protect me."
Teammates say that Howard was even more defensive this year than he was during the 2008-2009 season.
"He snaps at everything now," said guard J.J. Redick. "You tell him: 'Hey, man, great shot.' And he just scowls at you. He always feels like we are attacking him, even with a legitimate compliment. Like we were surprised he made a shot or something."
Those who knew Howard in high school say he wasn't always so defensive.
"Dwight was always a very warm, fun kid to be around," said his high school coach, Bill Jacobs. "Yet a ferocious defender."
Howard bristled at the comments from his former coach.
"I notice he didn't compliment my offense," said Howard. "See? This is the kind of thing I'm talking about. That's why I can't ever let my guard down."