Zen Master Phil’s Tank of Motivation Runneth Dry

One of the biggest knocks against Lakers coach Phil Jackson is that his success is too closely tied to the abilities of his players, and that a guy with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on one team and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal on another hasn’t had to do any “real coaching.”

Phil Jackson wince

So how did this alleged Hall-of-Fame mentor rally his troops after they blew a 21-point lead in Game 3 Thursday night?

Eh, he gave ‘em the day off.

Jackson told the L.A. TIMES that his players looked spent. He canceled the team’s scheduled practice to give them the rest of the day to recover.

“I just told them as a team, they had their heart ripped out,” Jackson said. “It’s tough to recover from that, but they will. This thing is not over, and we want to force the action, want to continue to force the play.”

“Just in the checking out how the guys were and how they felt, I just felt it was a good idea,” Jackson said.

Jackson also did his best to motivate his star player in Bryant, pointing to a Kevin Garnett quote where he said the Celtics were so close to a title that he “can taste it.” Kobe had his own regimen for getting over the historic loss:

“A lot of wine, a lot of beer, a couple shots, maybe like 20 of them, digest it, get back to work tomorrow,” Bryant said. “Nothing you can do.”

Late Friday morning came word that the Lakers had canceled practice. Had the players followed Bryant’s advice and were too hungover to play ball?

“No, I think that they looked clear-eyed today for the most part,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who saw the players earlier for a film session. “They looked relatively clear-eyed.”

Jackson can silence his detractors if he can make history by winning the next three games and winning his 10th NBA title as a coach. But don’t hold your breath; it’s never happened for a reason, and the Zen Master’s bag of talent, er, tricks appears to be startlingly empty.