Phil Jackson called Chris Paul issues

Updated: December 14, 2011, 10:04 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson predicted that problems could arise with a potential Chris Paul trade back on Dec. 29, 2010 of last season before Los Angeles played the Hornets in New Orleans.

"Who's going to trade who to whom?" Jackson said at the time. "Who's going to pull the button on trading player or when Chris 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."

Not long after making the comments Jackson was privately fined an undisclosed amount of money by the league for what he said, according to a source close to the coach.

Jackson, who was sporting a white beard after eschewing his usual facial hair during his last two seasons with the Lakers, reflected on his premonition Tuesday.

"That's really funny, isn't it?" Jackson said. "It's really funny that it would work out that way. But, you know, you could see it. You could see that it was going to be a problem. It's just part of the beast. If you create a situation like that, the problem might arise and it certainly did."

The Lakers continue to loom as a potential destination, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein on Tuesday, despite their apparent exit from the Paul sweepstakes on Saturday. The Lakers walked away from the table after multiple attempts to complete a three-team trade with the Hornets and Houston Rockets for Paul, and then agreed to trade New Orleans-bound Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks instead.

ESPN.com learned Tuesday that a Lakers deal for Paul has not yet been ruled out, contingent on the fact that they can recruit at least one other team to supply some of the young pieces that the league is demanding. But the Lakers do still have Pau Gasol as a centerpiece, who could either replace Paul as the Hornets' franchise player or give New Orleans a top-20 player to be dangled in subsequent deals.

The NBA's preference, however, remains a trade with the Clippers. League officials representing the Hornets and Clippers continued Paul trade discussions into Tuesday night, sources briefed on the talks told Stein.

He responded to the Lakers trading Odom and a 2012 second round pick to Dallas for an $8.9 million trade exception and a 2012 first round pick.

"I feel for all the fans," Jackson said. "I know that it's hard to let a player go from a championship team, like Lamar."

When he reiterated his empathy for Lakers fans, Jackson revealed how closely he still associates himself with the organization.

"I really feel for our fans," he said.

Jackson retired in May as the all-time winningest championship coach in NBA history, having captured 11 titles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

The man knows the look of a championship team when he sees one.

With the 2011-12 NBA season truncated to just 66 games after a five-month long lockout threatened to wipe the season out completely, Jackson does not have a prediction of who will win it all. But he does think the strange set up for the season could allow for a dark horse contender to emerge.

"With a shortened season you get all kinds of crazy things," Jackson said while taking a break from a commercial shoot at the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State on Tuesday.

"With the asterisk season back in '98, San Antonio and New York certainly weren't on the listed teams that would be in the Finals. You had all these teams, Utah and Indiana, that were all prepped to be there and these shortened seasons make a big difference to players."

The Heat are the favorite to win the championship this year at 5/2 odds, according to VegasInsider.com. The top five is rounded out by the Lakers at 11/2, Chicago at 13/2, Oklahoma City at 7/1 and Boston and the defending-champion Dallas Mavericks tied at 8/1.

Jackson retired from coaching the Lakers last spring after 11 seasons in L.A. He still feels a strong connection to the team after coaching them to three of the last four Finals and through his relationship with Jeanie Buss, the Lakers executive vice president of business operations and the daughter of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss.

Jackson, who was back in a basketball arena to film a commercial, did not tip his hand to reveal whether he'll be back coaching on an NBA sidelines anytime soon.

During a recent roundtable discussion with ESPN NBA analysts, Michael Wilbon guaranteed Jackson will return to the NBA to coach in 2012-13.

"You can mark it down: Phil Jackson is going to be coaching in the NBA next season," Wilbon said.

The Hall of Fame coach, who turned 66 in September, declined comment.

"I don't have anything to say about that," Jackson said.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used in this report.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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