- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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You have to hand it to Phil Jackson for his impeccable sense of timing.
Back in 1998, as soon as he walked away from basketball for the first time because he knew the Chicago Bulls were going to be dismantled from their championship form, the league entered into a lockout that cut the 1998-99 season to 50 games.
This spring, when he retired for what he vowed to be for good (even though Mike Wilbon begs to differ), the league entered into a lockout that wasn't resolved for 149 days and will cut the 2011-12 season to 66 games.
Had he changed his mind at the last minute and decided to give one more go of it with the Lakers this year, he would have ended up experiencing a severe case of déjà vu.
You see, just less than a year ago, on Dec. 29, 2010, during his pregame media session before the Lakers beat the Hornets 103-88 in Andrew Bynum's first start of the season, Jackson was asked about the opposing franchise being purchased by the league as he stood in a narrow hallway in front of the visitor's locker room at New Orleans Arena.
Looking back and reading Jackson's response to the questions on Thursday was downright eerie after NBA commissioner David Stern intervened to veto a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic to the Hornets.
Here's an excerpt of the story that ran on ESPNLosAngeles.com:
"Who's going to trade who to whom? Who's going to pull the button on trading player or when Chris [Paul] says he has to be traded? How's that going to go? I don't know. Somebody's going to have to make a very nonjudgmental decision on that part that's not going to irritate anybody else in this league ... I don't know how they're going to do that."
The Hornets basketball decisions and day-to-day operations will continue to be controlled by team president Hugh Weber and general manager Dell Demps, but Jackson was skeptical any move made by New Orleans would be viewed as the league helping out another franchise.
"That's what everybody is going to be afraid of: Who is going to be helping who out?" Jackson said.
Just by happenstance, I left a message with Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger, on Thursday morning to see if Phil felt like talking and catching up the Lakers' fan base as to what he's been doing with his life the last five months.
Jackson was on my mind because Gasol had mentioned how he has stayed in touch with his ex-coach on Wednesday.
Todd's son, Brian Musburger, called me back to politely decline the request on Phil's behalf, saying that Jackson would rather stay quiet for the time being.
And so, Jackson's premonition will have to speak for itself.
The whole incident reminded me of a quote Derek Fisher told me when I asked him to compare Jackson to an animal for a profile I did on Phil for NBA.com back in January 2009:
"A fox," says Derek Fisher, who has played for Jackson for seven of the nine seasons that Jackson's been in L.A.. "He's really sly. He doesn't make a lot of noise when he's around. He just kind of comes and does what he wants to do and needs to do and then he disappears back out into the woods. He's just chilling amongst the trees."
Jackson saw the mess that was coming and picked a perfect time to disappear back out into the woods.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
You have to hand it to Phil Jackson for his impeccable sense of timing.Back in 1998, as soon as he walked away from basketball for the first time because he knew the Chicago Bulls were going to be dismantled from their championship form, the league entered into a lockout that cut the 1998-99 season to 50 games.