Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Jackson banking return to Lakers on health
HONOLULU -- Phil Jackson hopes to reach a decision on his
coaching future in the next four weeks.
Jackson, who turned 62 last month, is in the final season of the
three-year, $30 million contract he signed before the 2005-06
"I just told Dr. Buss it hinged upon my recovery," Jackson
said Tuesday, referring to Lakers owner Jerry Buss. "Hopefully
that doesn't run into the season, when wins and losses become a
Jackson underwent hip replacement surgery in June -- his second
such operation in less than a year. He's still using a cane, but
said he's been making progress. The Lakers open the season Oct. 30
against the Houston Rockets.
Jackson coached the Lakers to three championships and a fourth
berth in the NBA Finals from 2000-04. At that stage, he wasn't
invited back, and was out of coaching for a year before returning.
The Lakers have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs
in each of Jackson's two seasons in his second tour of duty with
"We've extended an offer to have him return," Lakers general
manager Mitch Kupchak said. "That's our position. We're hopeful.
The lame duck situation, I don't think that applies to Phil. This
is something where there's a standing offer."
Jackson enters the season with nine championships as a head
coach, tying him with former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach for
the NBA record. Jackson coached the Michael Jordan-led Chicago
Bulls to six titles in the 1990s.
Speaking during the Lakers' first formal practice, Kupchak said
he's optimistic the team will fare much better this season than
last year despite a lack of major offseason moves.
"We feel that if we stay healthy, we've got a good team," he
said. "Expectations aren't very high. That's OK with me. All I
keep reading is we're not a very good team. Obviously, I disagree
The Lakers began last season by winning 26 of their first 39
games before losing 27 of their last 43 to finish 42-40.
It was a lively offseason for the Lakers, starting last May when
star Kobe Bryant criticized the front office and requested a trade.
Then, apparent efforts to acquire Kevin Garnett from Minnesota
failed, with Garnett being traded to the Boston Celtics.
But it was business as usual Tuesday in the wake of Bryant's
appearance a day earlier at media day, when he said among other
things that his top priority was to bring a championship back to
When asked if he was glad to have put the events of the summer
and the Bryant situation behind him, Kupchak replied: "What's the
When some of what Bryant said was mentioned, Kupchak said: "We
did not end the season last year on a good note. A lot of the
things Kobe talked about were related to not winning games. I am
very happy being in training camp and looking forward to this
season. In that respect, I'm glad the summer's over."
Eighteen players took part in the Lakers' first formal
practice. All but four -- Elton Brown, Coby Karl, Andre Patterson
and Larry Turner -- have guaranteed contracts. "We would carry
15," Kupchak said. "If somebody jumps out at us, we'll have 15."
... F Lamar Odom, recovering from offseason surgery on his left
(shooting) shoulder, participated in the first practice. "He did a
lot more today than I thought he would," Kupchak said. "He went
through half a practice. That's good, as long as he doesn't have