Phil Jackson on Bryant's return: 'People are going to be surprised'

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he expects Kobe Bryant to make a strong return before the end of the season.

"I think that he's going to be able to perform at a high level. People are going to be surprised," Jackson said in an interview Wednesday on Fox Sports Live.


Jackson noted that Bryant's game will need to evolve as he works his way back post-injury.

"I think post-up game and screen roll is going to have to become ... a major part of his game. I don't think he's going to be able to just break [players] down [off the dribble]," Jackson said. "Defense becomes the biggest problem .... as you get old."

With the Lakers (16-26) struggling, Jackson said Bryant should sit out the rest of the rest of the season if he's not healthy by April.

"If it's somewhere in the middle of February or March, I think he'll want to come back and get to that level again," Jackson said. "The only way you get to that level is playing against [NBA talent]. It doesn't happen on the playground or in the summer."

Jackson also reiterated that his coaching days were behind him.

"I'm not going to coach again," Jackson said. "I've done my coaching and I think I can put that aside."

Jackson hinted that he'd like to help the team behind the scenes in the Lakers' front office -- but that opportunity is currently not available to him.

"They have a hierarchy. They have an administration," he said. "They're trying to work through some things. They made a decision to go in a different style of ball."

Jackson praised the Lakers' late owner Dr. Jerry Buss for his education and successful professional career before getting into basketball. He also credited Buss for being decisive, and drafting Magic Johnson in 1979.

Jackson wasn't as generous when discussing Lakers owner/executive Jim Buss.

"I think Jim is kind of feeling his way. He doesn't really know all of the ramifications of basketball," Jackson said. "I think one of the things that Dr. Buss did, was he left a lot of basketball decisions to basketball people and then he would make the final [call]."

He also said he believes the Lakers should have hired Brian Shaw to coach the team after Jackson retired in 2011.

"They should have given him the opportunity to have that job, but that's not my decision," Jackson said. "That's where Jimmy Buss wanted to make that decision. I don't know where [General Manager] Mitch [Kupchak] was behind all of that, because Mitch kind of sits behind that decision making."

Instead the Lakers hired Mike Brown, who was fired a year later, five games into the 2012-13 NBA season. Shaw has since been hired to coach the Denver Nuggets (20-20).


Jackson also said he thinks free agent center Andrew Bynum, recently traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Chicago Bulls, and then subsequently waived, will return to the league.

"I think he's going to give it another try," Jackson said.

The Lakers sent Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012 (in the multiteam trade that brought Dwight Howard to L.A.), but the two-time NBA champion wasn't able to suit up for a single game for the 76ers. He signed with the Cavaliers over the off-season.

"I think he rehabbed as well as he could in every situation," Jackson said. "I think he's done the most you can possibly do for your knee. I think he's given an effort and he's had so much difficulty and so much pain, I wonder how many times he can go through this again."


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