Phil Jackson: Heat could win 70
DENVER -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson doesn't think his team will win 70 games this season.
But he thinks the Miami Heat have a chance in the near future.
"It's not going to happen [for us]," Jackson said about the 70-win talk surrounding his team after the Lakers' shootaround Thursday morning in preparation for their game against the Denver Nuggets. "The schedule's too tough. The travel is extenuating in the Western Conference, there's very difficult time zone changes that you go through and all the stuff that happens. And that's disregarding the idea that you can play with all your players for the rest of the season.
"Everything has to just break perfect for that to happen, plus the team has to be very, very resilient and very, very capable of filling in for one another at multiple positions."
Jackson described all of the factors his 72-10 Chicago Bulls team had in its favor during the 1995-96 season -- playing in the Central time zone gave them an advantage when the bulk of their games were played in the Eastern time zone because they would gain an hour; on several occasions the opponents' best player happened to be injured when they played; there were less back-to-backs built into the schedule because TNT had yet to sign a Thursday night exclusivity deal with the league; and having Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen certainly helped.
"We have a team that's an older team and we probably don't have to push for [72-10]," Jackson said. "That's not what's important about our season. Our season is to maintain a balance and hopefully have distance [between us and the rest of the field] and can finish in a position where it would be the best advantage for us in the playoffs.
"It's a lot of fun to win a lot of games, but ultimately, as Ronny Harper made a T-shirt up, '72-10 don't mean a thing if you don't win the ring.' And so, that's what it's all about."
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As for the talented team down in South Beach, currently the Heat only have the third-best record in the Southeast Division, let alone the best record in the league or a pace to best the Bulls' all-time best record. Yet when reminded about how much has changed since '95-96 before being asked if a team will ever win 70 games in a season again, Jackson said: "I think this Miami team could."
"They're talented enough to do that," he continued. "They may not be deep enough quite yet or have all their persons in place and teamwork just down, but if they stay together, they have a good chance. They have a very talented team."
Jackson shrugged off Miami's 5-3 start out of the gate.
"Those things will disappear," Jackson said. "You can have an eight-game winning streak anytime and go."
Kobe Bryant declined to offer his opinion on the subject.
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"I don't say anything, I just agree with whatever Coach says," Bryant said. "You know Phil says stuff to stir the pot, don't wrap me up into that crap. He said it; he'll stand by it."
As for the 70-win speculation about the Lakers, Bryant said it's come sooner than he expected.
"It happens every so often, every time a team starts 5-0, 7-0," Bryant said. "Me and [Lakers athletic performance director] Chip [Schaefer] had a nice little bet about when that talk would start. Would it start after we went 6-0? 7-0? 8-0? We had a little bet going, people just like talking about it."
Schaefer, who was on the training staff of that record-setting Bulls team, won the bet after predicting the talk would start after the Lakers ran their record to 7-0. Bryant thought the buzz wouldn't pick up until the Lakers started 8-0.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.