Mark Jackson says 'Lakers relevant once again' post LeBron move

NBA analysts and former coaches, Jeff van Gundy and Mark Jackson discuss all that can be expected in the coming eight months of a action-packed season.

LeBron James during Lakers' pre-season match.   -  AP

The 2018-19 NBA season kick-starts on Wednesday, with Philadelphia 76ers taking on the Boston Celtics. NBA analysts and former coaches, Jeff van Gundy and Mark Jackson discuss all that can be expected in the coming eight months of power packed basketball.

How important is it to the league that the Chicago Bulls have some sort of resurgence?

MARK JACKSON: I think obviously the league is at its best when these big market teams are relevant and good. I think Chicago is a young, talented team headed in the right direction and I think they're more than capable of being a playoff team when healthy and whole. So it will be interesting to see.

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JEFF VAN GUNDY: It seems amazing to me how the viewership and all of that has been so great when the Lakers have been bad for a while, the Knicks have struggled, the Nets have really struggled, and Chicago over the last couple of years has been in a down turn. It's fascinating how the NBA popularity is still growing. And then I think from Chicago's standpoint that they have made some good moves and there's some moves that you have to wait and see.

Are the Heat in a tier with the Washington's, Milwaukee's, Indiana's, behind Boston, Philly, Toronto, or do you say Miami is not as good as those teams?

JEFF VAN GUNDY: I definitely put them as a playoff team. Miami has stuff you can count on, depth, great defense, move the ball, they just aren't as talented as the teams you mentioned in that other tier. I would feel better about their chances if they made an impactful trade.

Jimmy Butler is an All-Star talent, but we're also talking possibly about a five-year deal that takes him to Miami when he will be 34. If you were a general manager, would you have any consternation about paying a 34 or 35-year-old player 43 million dollars? So how do you sort of look at the spectrum of that trade when considering the five year extension or new contract Jimmy will get next summer?

MARK JACKSON: I think that's the hundred thousand dollar question. It's not Jimmy Butler today and what he's worth, it's, if you give him that extension, at 34 years old, making that kind of money, it can really handcuff your franchise and those are the tough decisions that you boil it down to, whether the trade is worth it or not. But he's certainly a heck of a basketball player and he's going to help them today. That really makes it tough and if I was a general manager I would try to meet somewhere halfway where I'm not paying that kind of money when he's 34 years old.

Jimmy Butler, despite his age, is one heck of a player and still capable of making an impact.   -  AP

 

JEFF VAN GUNDY: I'm not at all convinced that every team, like Miami, would do that. I'm not convinced, even if people would say, well, Houston did it for Chris Paul. But I think Houston was, is and was closer to a championship than Miami and secondarily I think Chris Paul is going to go down as one of the all-time greats. So I'm not convinced that every team that will trade or the team that ultimately trades for Jimmy Butler will feel necessary to give him five years. I really do think there will be negotiations. I think the only team that's committed to paying him five years right now would be the team that has him.

Even with their best player on the shelf indefinitely do you think New York Knicks fans should be optimistic about the right leadership being in place now, president, GM, coach? Do you think they are headed in the right direction or at least have the guys that can point them that way?

JEFF VAN GUNDY: I've always thought the coaches have been good. How well you do is based strictly on the roster. So I think David Fizdale's very good, and if he has a good roster, they will have a good team. If he has a mediocre roster, they will have a mediocre team. So I don't look at it as like changing coaches is the most important part to improvement. I think who picks the players is absolutely critical to your success or lack of success. And they have had some spotty things going on in the last three, four years, as far as picking players are concerned, both in the draft and free agent. So right now I don't think you can expect them to have a quick fix. Porzingis's got to get better to be a best player in a really good team. And then they have to supplement their talent. When you look on the floor right now even if they had Porzingis, they're just not a talented team. Now I like Kanter, I think he was a tremendous trade, I'm interested to see if they can sign him or will sign him. But I think he's a very good player, but their back court needs some shoring up.There's clearly some teams that are better than the other ones in the East but you play hard, you compete, you defend and you buy in, and the Knicks are one of those teams. They have an opportunity to show growth and be chasing a playoff spot.

San Antonio Spurs had a really tough season. In this season, what impact will they have, if any at all and what players do you think will be the stand out players this season?

MARK JACKSON: I think that Spurs will be Spurs. We expect them to play hard, compete and win ball games. I expect them to be balanced for home court. You look at that roster and you look at the age and you say how, but we have been saying that for quite a while. Pop finds away to get the best out of his guys, they're a talented team, they added some youth. I think DeAndre at the point guard position hurts them. I expect White to be back soon and I expect him to be playing great basketball when he does come back. And I expect the Spurs also to be on the hunt for help at the point guard position until he comes back to add depth. But that's a team that's talented, they know how to win, they know how to defend. I think Rudy Gay will have a very good year for them. I thought last year he was bouncing back from injury but I think this year he'll play more minutes and show his true versatility.

San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (left) during a first half of a preseason NBA basketball game.   -  AP

 

JEFF VAN GUNDY: I think by getting DeRozan and getting Poltl for Leonard is a huge upgrade from where they were last year without Leonard. So I think offensively they will be fine. I think defensively losing Leonard, Danny Green and Kyle Anderson, could cause some struggles. With Murray hurt and Derrick White hurt, their top two point guards are kind of converting a smallish two guard in Bryn Forbes to the starting point guard, I'm interested to see how that works, because he's a very, very good shooter. But I think like Mark, even though they have some defensive question marks, I have no doubt that they're going to play hard, smart, and together. When you do that in the NBA with the goal being about the team versus about the individuals, you can overcome at times more talented teams that aren't as committed to doing things together.

What do you think LeBron James needs to do with the Lakers this upcoming season for each of you to consider it a successful campaign? Is there any reason that anyone should not expect the Warriors to be back and have a very familiar ending to this season?

JEFF VAN GUNDY: I'm not sure how James would consider it a success. To me all a player or a team can do is play as hard as they can together with a level of intelligence. The other teams have an impact on how many games you win. So I'm not sure how he would consider it a success. But as a coach, I would have asked myself, "Did we give what we had to the process?"

If Golden State is into it, they're by far the best team with the best talent and will win.

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MARK JACKSON: Golden State is the clear-cut favorite. I do think in this league anything can happen but if clicking right, if healthy -- injuries plays a role not just for the Warriors but throughout this league, so that can play a part in it. But the Warriors are the clear-cut favorite. To answer the LeBron part, I think it's about the improvement that the Lakers show. It's a win already because the Lakers are once again relevant, now it's about developing winning habits and progressing towards that march.

Do you think the Los Angeles Clippers have enough to make a run to the Playoffs?

MARK JACKSON: I think Clippers are a sleeper team. They have veteran guys, they have an outstanding coach, they have added pieces, they play extremely hard, they're versatile and they have the ability to defend and make plays around the floor. They can score at different positions. So I think that they have an opportunity to be a playoff team. I would not be surprised. Building off of their pre-season, I like the way that they have played, they have experienced success, it will be very interesting to see when the lights are on if they can continue to progress. But I see them as a team that's more than capable of making it to the Playoffs.

JEFF VAN GUNDY: I like how they play, they play with great energy, passion, I like their team. Whether that translates into being a playoff team, it's hard to say.