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Jackson Pursues PorzingisFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

This story is in the collection “Basketball and Football”

I set up a large white board in my office and arm myself with markers black, blue, and red as I prepare for my ten a.m. exit interview with Kristaps Porzingis, talented but still immature at age twenty-one. I’m going to lecture and test the lad about the intricacies of the triangle offense as well as the psychic responsibilities of the best player on a team destined to win NBA titles, which I own in unequalled abundance. It’s already two minutes past the appointed hour so I plan to sentence Kristaps to a few dozen pushups and squat jumps when he arrives. I won’t tolerate tardiness from anyone. At ten-ten I tell my secretary to call him. There’s no answer. He must be on his way. He better be here soon or what’ll I do? I’ll lecture his skinny ass, which, like the rest of his frame, still lacks the musculature of a champion. By ten-thirty, the presumptuous punk is aggravating my stomach.

“Keep calling,” I order my secretary. “No, give me the damn phone.”

After listening to a robotic voice, I leave this message, “Porzingis, you’re to be in my office in ten minutes or else.”

I feel it. I could wait until fall. The callow kid is jilting me in public. A few days later I learn he’s skedaddled to his native Latvia and told everyone he’s unhappy with “confusion from top to bottom” in the Knicks organization. He might as well have slapped me at center court of Madison Square Garden, where as a player I won rings decades before his birth. He was either unborn or in diapers during the epic years I guided the Bulls and Lakers to the summit of athletic achievement. And this delinquent stands me up? He’ll pay, by Jove.

“Book me on the next flight to Riga, Latvia,” I shout to my secretary.

“Yes, sir.”

I wish this fine young lady stood seven-foot-three and blocked NBA shots and drilled jumpers from downtown. I’d sign her the day I cut Kristaps and trade Carmelo Anthony to the Albany Patroons.

Soon I’m flying high in first class on a public flight, eating marijuana brownies I’ve cleverly brought on board, and telling fellow travelers, “My protégé Porzingis has invited me to visit his native land. Reports of discord are absolute rubbish. Please post and tweet that so our Knicks fans can relax.”

Making the connecting flight in a European city I’m too loaded to recognize, I finish my brownies and wobble off the plane in Riga. Don’t worry. I’ve done my homework. I know where Kristaps Porzingis lives. And the limousine I’ve hired, driven by an elderly man who speaks no English, takes me straight – I dare not say where – to the mansion of the man I made rich by drafting him fourth in the league two years ago.

I don’t knock. Why bother? Cocky Kristaps wouldn’t answer the door any more than he answered his phone. I grab the knob but it’s locked. Shall I kick the door in? I was a rugged bastard, six-foot-eight and two hundred twenty pounds during my pro career, and am only a tad shorter now and quite a bit heavier and stronger despite the aches of aging. But no, I don’t want to terrify Kristaps or destroy his property. You know he’d complain about my confused leadership. I walk around the big place and am encountered by a beefy security guard.

“Phil Jackson to see Kristaps Porzingis,” I pronounce.

He whips out handcuffs and I kick him in the balls, crumpling the rube, and run to the back of the residence and look into a window revealing the long lean one reclining on a sofa and reading what I assume are comic books. I know he didn’t study the tracts by Plato and Socrates I gave him during his rookie season. I pound the window, breaking it unintentionally, I assure you, and shout, “Porzingis, open the goddamn door and bury your insolence.”

He instead uses his cell phone to activate an alarm that summons the recovering security guard and two more who envelop and grind me into the concrete patio before they pick me up to face Porzingis who’s wearing a fancy scarf inside a silk shirt tucked into lengthy leather pants that cover the tops of his sneakers.

“What the hell do you want, Jackson?”

“That’s Mr. Jackson or Coach Jackson.”

“You’re no longer a coach and, given your petulant behavior, I have reservations about calling you mister.”

“Okay, call me Phil.”

“The police will be here shortly, Phil.”

“Please, let’s talk like basketball professionals.”

“Very well. All the players consider your triangle offense to be a Model T in the jet-propelled NBA.”

“Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin won six titles using it, and Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and others won five more, all with yours truly orchestrating the victories.”

“We’re tired of your fixation on the past. You’ve been with the Knicks three seasons and I two. And where are we? Presently, we’re at fifty-one loses and facing lengthy reconstruction.”

“That’s why you should be in the United States, studying the intricacies of the triangle, which can take many years to comprehend.”

“It’s elementary, Phil. I’ll simply cite much-publicized information about which you cannot be ignorant. Players around the league say our plays are easy to predict and defend. We shoot more low-production shots – non-threes and non-layups – than everyone else, and, consequently, our shots are much too often tightly contested. We need to spread things out.”

“Perhaps I should appoint you player-coach, Mr. Porzingis.”

“That appears to be necessary. Your age and emotional distance from the players is ruining our team chemistry. Also, your public diatribes against Carmelo Anthony not only insulted him, they insulted me. He’s a gentleman and still a high-scoring small forward, which we certainly need. I’m also worried about your draft selections.”

“I picked you.”

“Yes, but far too many of your picks aren’t working out. A championship executive must draft, trade, and sign free agents shrewdly – rather than loading the roster with expensive, once-distinguished players now close to retirement – and he must bring the team together by respecting and adapting to their skills, and refraining from insults.”

I hear sirens and soon see several police officers sprint toward me. They say something to Porzingis, in Latvian, I assume, and he responds.

“You aren’t going to have them arrest me, are you?”

“No, I told them to take you to the airport and ban you from the country for a decade.”

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This entry was posted in Basketball, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, Michael Jordan, New York, New York Knicks, Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippin, Shaquille O'Neal.