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Phil Jackson muddies the water on his future. Again.

Mar 30, 2010, 3:29 PM EDT

If you want to know whether or not Phil Jackson is going to come back and coach the Lakers next year, asking Phil Jackson may be the worst way to find out.

Jackson rarely says anything that doesn’t have a secondary intent and meaning. The truth is murky and covered up. Take these comments on his future to Dan Patrick on DP’s national radio show.

Would he return to the Lakers if they make the Finals?

“Good chance of it.”

What if they don’t make the Finals?

“I’d have to think long and hard about it because I think we only have five guys coming back off this roster.  There is kind of a real swing effect on this team with players.  We have one guard coming back that’s signed.  That’s (Sasha) Vujacic. (Jordan) Farmar, (Derek) Fisher, (Kobe) Bryant and Shannon Brown are all free agents and up for move or resigning.”

First, getting rid of all the guards on the Lakers roster not named Kobe would a good thing going forward. The Lakers perimeter play — spotty defense, inability to hit the three, poor post entry passes, not setting up the offense well — is one of the team’s big weaknesses. Wholesale changes would not mean disaster.

But back to our “listening to Phil 101” class:

From where I sit, those quotes have little to do with whether or not Phil Jackson returns next year and everything to do with motivating his team. The Lakers players — particularly the key ones like Kobe and Pau Gasol — like playing for Jackson. The threat of him leaving is designed to light a fire under them, to help bring some focus, to get the squad listening to him again.

It’s also the sexy thing to talk about regarding his return, but frankly his health and the Buss family’s willingness not to cut his pay are bigger factors. Those are the ones he usually brings up first, until it gets close to the playoffs. Then suddenly the emphasis switches. Because he’s Phil Jackson.

  1. Sonny Thomas - Mar 30, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    I don’t think that the Laker’s will repeat as Champions. Have you noticed that Kobe is very argumentive with all the players when they make mistakes. However, his turnover ratio in ball handling has left a lot to be desired lately. I think that when you look at Lebron, when his guys makes mistakes he is not critical of them. he just states that we will do it better next time. AS well, hius supporting cast willingly follow him. This is true leadership. I have seen such much frustration and mistakes in ball handling from Kobe that I am turned off. He will never be another Michael Jordan as much as he tries.

  2. NRESQ - Mar 30, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    Uh, last I checked the Lakers were the defending NBA champions and also went to the finals the year before. Why is it when the Lakers hit the inevitable rough patch like all NBA teams do suddenly the sky is falling, the coach is leaving, Kobe’s the problem, defense stinks, blah, blah, blah. Hey Sonny, how many rings your boy ‘Bron gots? When he’s got 4 we’ll talk. How about everybody just chill and enjoy the playoffs. It’ll be a great Finals match up against the Lakers, if the Cavs get there!

  3. Kimmer - Mar 30, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    Phil needs to leave the little boys club and retire. He is old and deserves a rest. Kobe does not respect him and never has.

  4. juan Bernal - Mar 30, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    I follow the Lakers, but know their limitations. They give few indications that they’re ready to defend their title. They are too inconsistent, don’t play tough defense or rebound with authority. Right now the Cleveland Cavaliers are the odds-on favorites to win the championship.
    Whether Jackson returns to coach another year is not important to me. Without a strong bench and some tough players, this team will have to be satisfied with the championship of 2009. Jackson is not a miracle worker.

  5. GoLakers - Mar 30, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    Argumentive???? If his players make the shots when he passes the ball to them he wouldn’t have to say anything. He isn’t accumulating assist numbers because they are missing layups or open jump shots. When Lebron passes to his teammates they score thus his assists numbers are up. Argumentive??? Kobe is the captain. When he communicates with his teammates they should listen.

  6. GoLakers - Mar 30, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    Some of you guys are not Laker fans. If you were, you’d know that in a seven game series it would be very hard to beat them. Yea, one game on the road here and there or one game at home here and there they may lose during the regular season. They may play inconsistent at times and get you frustrated. Why. Because you know that if they click on all cylinders no one will beat them. Remember people…Seven Game Series. Try and beat them!!

  7. michael karisko - Mar 30, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    like to see phil coach a team that does not have a super star on it. It won’t happen… Thats all he does follows the stars.

  8. Doghead - Mar 30, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    Guys, I respect all of your opinions on basketball. In fact, many of you make excellent points with intelligent thought and logic applied to your comments. Why is it then, that America has become the land of the illiterate? Argumentive? Come on! You are better than that! Argumentive is not an English word. I challenge GoLakers AND Sonny Thomas to re-post, fixing their errors. Like I said, you guys are not dumb. You just lack discipline and attention to detail. Kick some butt and re-post with no spelling errors. You can do it!

  9. Ba2guns - Mar 30, 2010 at 8:21 PM

    I Agree with Sonny Thomas !00%

  10. Big Daddy Shaq - Mar 30, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    I Agree with Sonny Thomas 100%

  11. Jimsjam33 - Mar 30, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    Let him leave if that’s his desire . He’s won enough championships to last him a lifetime .
    As far as Laker fans go don’t start crying just yet ; afterall , Byron Scott is waiting in the wings to take over. I don’t think that’s a major drop in talent as Scott is a true Laker and very capable of taking the Lakers to a NBA championship in the years ahead.
    By the way , Byron Scott has the endorsement of Magic Johnson , James Worthy , Kareem Abdul Jabbar , and Kirk Rambis just for starters . Jerry Buss would be crazy not to hire him if Jackson has had enough .

  12. Rafa - Mar 30, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    No coach without a star will win a ring. But many coaches have stars and can’t lead them to the promised land. Great coaches come from helping great players reach the end. Phil can. Furthermore, there will never be another Jordan, so people need to stop comparing today’s players to yesterdays. Kobe should pass the ball and as captain has every right to be frustrated with his teammates. In response the team should be able to complete a play without relying on Kobe (they do do well when he’s not around). And Lebron James’ amount of rings can’t be compared to Kobe because Kobe has a team built around him, LJ doesn’t have that nor teammates with as much heart as him. In addition, Kobe has the coach to guide him there, LJ doesn’t. Look at KG. Put up with many years in Minn, the moment he went to a team with desire, he won. LJ needs to leave Cleveland. Lakers should clean house and bring LJ in. Phil loves him, time for Buss to write a check for LJ after resigning Kobe and Phil. And the 7-7-7-7 game series format was set up so the Lakers have a better chance to win. When you care more about the game than a team or player, you have a better chance to understand the game.

  13. Jimsjam33 - Mar 30, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    ” Futhermore there will never be another Jordan, so people need to stop comparing today’s players to yesterdays.”
    I am a Laker fan , so with that in mind , let me say that Kevin Durant of the OKC Thunder in time will make basketball affeciationados forget Michael Jordan , Kobe Byrant , LeBron James , Larry Bird , Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas .
    Purer basketball has never been played by any one individual . He makes his team mates better , his team better , and the basketball world is hiding this jewel in a small market city . That won
    t matter though because OKC will become the new dynasty if Durant stays there.

  14. Seth - Mar 30, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    Phil Jackson is the best to coach in the NBA EVER! I think he’s gonna go one more season win either 1 or 2 more rings for his 11th and 12th fingers!??!?!?! He’s amazing! Lakers and
    Cavs in the finals lakers will win in 6 games!

  15. Bill G. - Mar 30, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    Did you notice in the last sad game against the Hornets, all of Kobe’s shots were from outside the paint? What happened to his slashing to the hoop? Lamar seems to be the only one who does that fairly often. I wonder if Kobe has lost some confidence in his ball handling with his bad finger?

  16. smartypants - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    Kobe is on his way out, Phil will stay if Lebron becomes a Laker. Kobe will never amount to players like Jordon, Bird or Magic. Those players always made their team mates play like they were stars. Kobe is jealous and will never be about team. Lebron can be a Jordon, Bird or Magic guided by Phil. I hope Phil stays and Lebron becomes a Laker. Go Lakers, go Phil good bye Kobe.

  17. Sal B - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:58 AM

    I’ve noticed that quite of you have hit the panic button, Seriously? Most of us that truly understand that championship rings are won in the play offs, not the regular season; Period. the “Zen Master”, starts earning his pay in such crucial time. Notice that his main will flow like a lyon in charge, in such crucial time, even the black Mamba’s ears perk up. I say Relax. And as usual, let Lebron James get his glory and glamour as being the chosen one, during the regular season while Kobe gets the hardware. Quite frankly I’m hoping that Cleveland will make it to the finals so Kobe can truly slayer the Media’s self proclaim king and at the same time, humble the once all powerfull Shaq, and claim LA as the black Mamba state.

  18. NRESQ - Apr 1, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Why are people always talking out their A** like this? Ever hear of the book, “The Jordan Rules”? Fact is, Jordan was not particularly well-liked around the league or even by most of his team mates. He was called selfish, a ball hog, gunner, etc. Sound familiar? Never won a ring until Phil got him to accept the team concept and give up the ball now and then. Now everyone remembers Jordan as this warm and fuzzy guy. The reality is that he was (and may still be) an inveterate gambler, and his womanizing puts Tiger to shame (his divorce cost him over $100 Million). End of the day he was a GREAT baller, that’s it. Don’t turn the guy into a myth! Meanwhile, Kobe’s got 4 rings, and while he may not be well-liked around the league, he is respected by everyone, and there’s no one else anyone would want to have the ball in his hands with 2 seconds on the clock in the 4th, down by 1, in Game 7.

  19. Jack - May 26, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    whether or not Phil Jackson is going to come back and coach the Lakers next year, asking Phil Jackson may be the worst way to find out.

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