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Phil Jackson would be a perfect mentor for LeBron. But it's not going to happen.

May 19, 2010, 1:19 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for pjackson.jpgPhil Jackson’s team is once again peaking right as it heads deep into the playoffs. Again. Why does this surprise us? Sure, there were the injuries and the ugly last couple weeks of the regular season for the Lakers, but we should have all seen that. We should have known better. History has shown us time and again Jackson knows how to get players ready to perform their best on the biggest stages.

LeBron James could use that.

We don’t really know how badly LeBron’s elbow was bothering him. Or how much his teammates play was bothering him. What we know is that for two straight years the Cavaliers fell short. And by extension, James has fallen short.

James and this team have not come through on the big stage. Jackson’s teams do. That led Kevin Ding (best of the Lakers beat writers, for my money) to talk about how LeBron could use Jackson.

James clearly needs someone who understands how to manage him through the daily grind, press firmly on psychological buttons without apparent malicious intent and provide just enough open-ended structure to ensure it’s not going to be a one-overworked-man show.

Jackson’s teams respond when it matters because he teaches them to grow, he teaches them self-reliance. Lakers fans scream at their televisions in December when Jackson sits passively while his team flounders against Memphis or keep turning the ball over in Philadelphia. Jackson wants his players to figure it out for themselves. No timeout to bail them out. No substitutions. You determine your own fate.

It’s more than that, it’s psychological efforts to get the team to understand itself all season long, that is just the most visible part of it. But players beat drums and meditate as a unit. Call it mumbo jumbo. Call it BS if you want. You have to call it successful. A lot of other coaches have had talent and not won with it — including in LA and Chicago before he got there.

He could do the same with LeBron. But he won’t.

Sure, Jackson has no deal for next year right now, he is a free agent too. The media keeps asking and prodding Jackson about what he is going to do next, then read the tea leaves about what he said. But as Ding notes it’s all a big waste of time. And he is not leaving LA right now.

The reason these media sessions with Jackson about his future are so pointless is that he doesn’t even know himself what he’ll do. He honestly puts off deep thinking on the issue until after it’s over and he can take stock of everything. According to those close to him, though, there is no reason to believe he is ready to stop doing what he does so well when he feels so fine.

Given Jackson’s ongoing relationship with Jeanie Buss and his comfort in this zone at his advanced age, no one expects him to restart elsewhere, even if the most logical thing in the world would be proving his absolute pre-eminence in basketball history by turning Michael, Kobe and LeBron all from losers to winners.

Plus, who else is going to pay $12 million a year for all that mumbo jumbo? That much money to go against the Midwestern sensibilities of Cleveland or Chicago?

Only in LA.

  1. Robert - May 19, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Phil won’t have to go where LeBron is … LeBron is going to go where Phil already is … LeBron is going to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade for Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Sasha Vujacic … End of story …

  2. Steve - May 19, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    If it won’t happen, then why write about it?

  3. Omnius - May 19, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    The Lakers aren’t about to trade for such an overpriced overhyped media miscreation like LeBoring James, the King of Choke. Yeah LeGone James would benefit greatly from Phil Jackson’s sage coaching, let’s face it Mike Brown is a loser who can only motivate his team in the regular season but can’t get them to flip the switch and upgrade their game for the playoffs like Phil can.

  4. Eli - May 19, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    LeBron does need somebody to help him out but it aint gonna happen…LeBron is gonna end up a has-been who stayed past his prime in hopes of a championship ring!

  5. swedishmeatballs - May 19, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    Because it’s an interesting analysis and a pretty tickeling “what if”. If Kurt hadn’t specifically wrote “But it’s not going to happen”, you wouldn’t have had a problem with the article now would you? Cause’ if you would, you’d also have a problem with just about Every article on the topic of trade speculation/possibilities since 99 percent of them Never Happen.

  6. Tommy Paul - May 19, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    No Robert, you’ve got it all wrong. Phil, Lebron, Mel and D. Wade will meet up in New York and win an instant first year championship! That’s the deal!

  7. Kevin - May 19, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    phil jackson is going 2 cleveland and kobe will go with him 2 replace anthony parker.

  8. Jason - May 19, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    Lebron in LA could work. Lebron could take the lead in the regular season and cut Kobe’s time, saving Kobe for the playoffs.

  9. Ron - May 19, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    I would be ok with Lebron coming to LA and have him ready to replace the great KB24. If he did that he would get 2 rings along side KOBE but he needs to take a paycut. If he wants the rings that bad TAKE A PAYCUT come to LA and win some rings..If you want to be a buster stay in the east go with the knicks… or the bulls…or the nets and be a has a Ewing, Barkley, Malone, Mutombo, Miller because we all know these players know how to get rings…. NOT. LJ come to LA and leave the ego at the door… there is only room for Kobe’s. Once he retires or he can’t do it then you be the leader but learn to win from jackson, Gasol, and KB24. LA Lebron… thats the ticket.

  10. Be-A-Fan - May 19, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    All you guys are bonkers. Phil is going back to Chicago, Lebron in tow, for 7,8 and 9.

  11. james - May 19, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    doens’t phil already have 7, 8 & 9?

  12. Anonymous - May 19, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Wow, Robert seems to know something that Lebron himself doesn’t know . Unless you are in his inner circle, it’s highly unlikely that your fantasy will play out. And if you WERE in his inner circle, I doubt you would have the authority to comment publicly. This, sir, makes you the douche of the day. Congratulations.

  13. David - May 19, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    The problem in Clevland was there non playoff proven foward in Antwione Jamison the same way Orlando got Vince ( choke ) Carter. Did you see the sorry looks on there faces? Labron should come to the Lakers period! We would treat him right.

  14. David - May 19, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    The problem in Clevland was there non playoff proven foward in Antwione Jamison the same way Orlando got Vince ( choke ) Carter. Did you see the sorry looks on there faces? Labron should come to the Lakers period! We would treat him right.

  15. Dan Olson - May 19, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    I have to agree with the anom….Robert is a douche.

  16. LeBoob - May 19, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    LeBoob isn’t going to any team that casts a shadow so take away Chicago and the MJ shadow and get L.A. out of your mind with the Kobe shadow which leaves the east coast.
    Being from Cleveland I am leaning toward him going to NY. He is a fan and there really is no shadow to deal with. He doesn’t want to compete with a legend, he wants to be the legend. If he stays in Cleveland he will be worshiped and if he keeps losing, the blame will be placed on the others, players or coaches, you choose.
    The sad part about Lebron in Cleveland is that Mike Brown never seemed to be in charge. How many times did the networks broadcast the Cavaliers huddles? I think during the entire playoff run it was once. In the Boston series it was always Doc Rivers huddle, so what does that tell you about the Cavs?
    LeBoob is a spoiled brat. He graduated high school and became a multi-millionaire instantly. Nice to see our priorities are straight. Now he thinks he is Warren Buffet when all he is is the millionaire high school graduate. I guarantee he will throw a tantrum if there is even one day before July 1st that his name isn’t somewhere in the news. He is a child and his priorities, as much as he wants to say are championships, are really about the money and he will make somewhere in the neighborhood of 25% more overall money if he leaves Cleveland and goes to a major market and my estimation is the only one available for his needs is NY. The one thing that might keep him from going to NY is the media, he loves the attention but watch out when the attention isn’t good.
    Wonder when the story will break that LeBoob turned Tiger Woods? He never married his girlfriend and nobody in the NBA is really considered a family man so this too would blow over and he will remain the deity that he is. Okay, now I am rambling.

  17. Labos - May 19, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    I think the genius was referring to 7-8-9 in Chicago. All I can say is that, among the greats of the past 20 years, LJ is one who could possibly think big enough to go the way of Kareem, Magic, etc, as guys who came to a championship team, made them better, learned from the current superstar and waited their turn. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like a possibility in today’s environment. I think the dollars have polluted everyone… Too bad, because there is no place like LA if you want to be a superstar hoopster in the limelight.

  18. Dan - May 19, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    Sure, Lebron is going to play with one of the most narcisstic, and world-renowned ball-hogs in Kobe!! He’ll definitely get the ball then.

  19. joe - May 19, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    And Lebron is not narcissistic? plz. ball-hog Kobe has 4 rings – Lebron “please entire world love me, adore me” has zero.

  20. jamey - May 19, 2010 at 6:59 PM

    My guess with Lebron is that he lost on purpose so he can go somewhere else. If he would have won he couldn’t have left and he wants to leave badly. So he lost. He’s going somewhere.

  21. Dan Olson - May 19, 2010 at 7:38 PM

    My apologies to Robert….this is the dumbest post of the day!

  22. vin - May 19, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    the cavs kicked the lakers ass on xmas !!!! lebron suck it up and stop crying and bring a winner to ctown

  23. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2010 at 5:57 AM

    And your point being? A season loss to the Cavs doesn’t mean much when at the end, Lakers are playing in June while LeGone is thumbing his balls at home wondering what went wrong…

  24. SUPERFAN24 - May 20, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    If Boston wins this year, LA will wheel and deal for LeBron and/or D. Wade. Either way, whomever comes to LA will still need to defer to Kobe since its his team, but if you want a championship, there’s no better place than LA.

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