Jackson closer to retirement
Phil Jackson looked comfortable in relaxed jeans, flip-flops and a yellow shirt, saying how fun it was to conduct exit meetings with Lakers players after a championship season.
Then came the bombshell.
“I’m leaning toward retiring, but I haven’t made up my mind,” he said Wednesday.
There might not be another run at a championship for Jackson, who has won 11 of the NBA’s last 20 titles while coaching the Lakers and Chicago Bulls.
Six memorable days had passed since Kobe Bryant jumped up on top of the scorer’s table, Derek Fisher wept and Ron Artest began partying after the Lakers finished off the Boston Celtics.
Wednesday marked the unofficial end of the celebration. Or as Bryant said, the possible departure of his coach was “killing my buzz.”
Jackson, 64, received better than expected results in recent medical tests, including a sore left knee that wasn’t bad enough to require being replaced. And he said his decision was not financially based, even though the Lakers probably would request a minor cut from the $12 million he made last season.
“It’s certainly not about money,” he said.
In a meeting earlier this week, Jackson and Lakers owner Jerry Buss never discussed financial terms. In fact, Jackson was more apt to leave the Lakers because of the fatigue of so many nights in hotel beds, morning shoot-arounds in chilly arenas, and the constant stress of trying to deliver championships.
“I have to sit on it and do the right thing for myself,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that I’m 95% or 50% sure. This is what I feel right now.”
A father of five grown children and a grandfather, Jackson also made mention Wednesday of realizing “how much time you have left to live.”
On Friday, he will make the 1,300-mile drive to the upper reaches of Montana, where he resides in the off-season. He will swim in Flathead Lake and hope to clear his mind, he said in a quiet moment before climbing the staircase to the Lakers’ office, perhaps for the last time.
He also said he was “very serious” in his declaration that he might be done and that he won’t coach another team next season.
Jackson, said he would decide whether to retire by the end of next week, though the Lakers are in no hurry to press him.
“If he needed more time, obviously he’d get more time,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “I think as an organization you would like to know who your coach is going to be in this case maybe at some point in mid-to-late-July.”
Two possible replacements immediately come to mind, both former Lakers players: Byron Scott, the 2008 NBA coach of the year who has coached New Jersey and New Orleans; and Brian Shaw, who just completed his fifth season as a Lakers assistant coach.
“This team’s in really good shape going toward another opportunity to win,” Jackson said. “If I’m not here, someone else is going to do the job.”
Bryant, Fisher futures
On a busy day in which Fisher had perhaps his last exit meeting with the Lakers, Bryant talked about surgery possibilities on his sore right knee or, more likely, his fractured right index finger.
“I don’t expect it to be anything major. Once we drained the knee, it was fine enough. The finger, though, was a constant problem,” he said.
Fisher, 35, becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 and wants to come back as a starter, but he probably will have to take a pay cut from the $5 million he made last season. He wants more than the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 million for a player with his experience level of 14 years.
“I’m not chasing money, so I’m not looking at just trying to stretch out a deal artificially,” he said. “But at the same time, I have a strong feeling about what my value is to a team.
The Phoenix Suns have been granted permission to speak with Lakers assistant general manager Ronnie Lester about that team’s general manager job that was vacated when Steve Kerr resigned, according to two NBA sources that were not authorized to speak on the opening. Kupchak has said Lester, his right-hand man for the last nine seasons, can interview for the job after Thursday night’s NBA draft.