NBA legend Phil Jackson could return to the Los Angeles Lakers in some role next season, according to Mark Heisler of the OC Register.
Heisler writes that the Lakers still have lonely eyes for the player-turned-head-coach-turned NBA executive. Jackson won five NBA titles with Los Angeles in the 2000s. He has 11 as coach of the Lakers and Chicago Bulls.
Currently, Jackson is running the New York Knicks. He and his fiancee, Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss, both deny that could happen. Both remain committed to their current organizations.
However, Heisler reports that insiders close to both are saying it could happen after Phil’s opt-out on July 1, 2017. His status with the Knicks remains fluid, per CBS Sports.
Phil Jackson’s free agency depends on the results this season. The Knick’s finish to the season will decide if the Knicks are happy paying Jackson $12 million annually, according to Heisler. Without the money, would Jackson feel like staying in New York?
Either way, Heisler puts the odds at 50-50. He says that Knicks fan would be happy just making the playoffs. New York has made the playoffs three times in 12 seasons. Their last run to the NBA Finals came in a shortened 1998-99 season. That year, they lost the series to the San Antonio Spurs.
Now, the Knicks have their own issues to sort out before a playoff push. The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony recently said that he is tired of hearing about the triangle offense, an offense that Jackson has used in previous championship runs.
Meanwhile, the defensive efforts also need help. Jackson bumped assistant coach Kurt Rambis to defensive coordinator after New York allowed 110 points per game in their first six games.
Hence, Jackson’s philosophies are coming under fire with the Knicks.
Former Knicks head coach Derek Fisher was quoted as saying it is not fair that many assume Phil Jackson knows what to do in every situation because of his history in the game.
“He’s also still learning as an executive, as a president of an organization, which is completely different than coaching,” Fisher said via the OC Register.
Jackson also caught headlines when he said that Lebron James’ “posse” wanted favors that Pat Riley would not grant as Miami Heat team president, which prompted James to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This caused James to get offended as he saw the “posse” reference as racially charged.
With the issues on and off the court in New York, would the Lakers really consider a Jackson return?
The New York Knicks are currently the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. That is an improvement from the 49-115 overall record in Jackson’s first two seasons as president of the Knicks.
Some of that improvement is attributed to Kristaps Porzingis, the player Los Angeles passed on at the top of 2015 NBA Draft. He averages 20.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists through 16 games.
On the other hand, this year’s free agent acquisitions: Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, and Joakim Noah have had mixed results in the young season.
Rose is averaging 15.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists through 16 games. Noah is averaging 4.1 points and 8.4 rebounds as he has battled injuries.
Meanwhile, Jennings is adjusting to his role as a facilitator since joining the Knicks. The key reserve averages 15.3 points for his career, but he is only averaging 6.6 points in his first season with the Knicks. Jennings has said he has to sacrifice his scoring game for the team, per Hoops Rumors.
Nonetheless, Jackson may not have to worry about the production of his acquisitions. He could get hired by the Lakers after this season.
Jeanie Buss already tried hiring Jackson before the Knicks did. At the time, she cited that it would make her better at her job, per the OC Register.
However, Heisler points out that Jackson probably did not get hired due to Jim Buss’ issues with Phil.
Jeanie dodged the fight with her brother, Jim, as a favor to her late father. Jerry Buss, the late Lakers owner and father of Jeanie and Jim, never wanted turmoil in the organization.
Instead, Jeanie Buss elected to hold Jim on his vow to get the team back into contention by the end of the 2016-17 season. That means a Jeanie Buss takeover of the Lakers could come after this year. The same year that Jackson potentially hits the open market.
Currently, the Lakers (8-9) sit at ninth in the Western Conference. That would put them out of the playoffs if the season ended today. Hence, a reunion with Phil Jackson could happen soon.
Don’t expect the Phil-Jackson-to-Los-Angeles rumors to die anytime soon. The NBA icon could return to L.A. after this season.
[Image by Julie Jacobson/AP Images]