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During 2011 playoffs, Phil Jackson told Lakers he had prostate cancer

Apr 28, 2013, 2:59 PM EDT

Phil Jackson Getty Images

The last time the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs (as could happen Sunday as the Lakers trail the Spurs 3-0) it was 2011, when the Lakers were the title defenders. The Dallas Mavericks made short work of Los Angeles in the second round (and went on to win a title). After that loss, Phil Jackson walked away from the Lakers as coach.

Trying to motivate his team during that playoffs Phil Jackson told the players he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

That was not made public at the time but is part of Jackson’s book “11 Rings” that comes out in May, and was reported now by Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

Jackson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2011. After doctors assured him the cancer could be controlled by drugs temporarily, Jackson waited until after the season to undergo surgery.

Jackson decided to divulge his situation to his players when he sensed the team was lacking something in the playoffs.

“Shocking,” Pau Gasol said Saturday, remembering Jackson’s disclosure to the team. “But then you also could understand certain moments of his demeanor, energy and involvement because of what he was going through health-wise. It explained certain things. It was a shock. A difficult moment for the team.”

The revalaton may not have had the impact Jackson desired on his team — if you remember that series against Dallas the Lakers faded and got worse as it went on. The Lakers were overmatched that playoff run (they needed Andrew Bynum and didn’t have him, Kobe Bryant’s knee was gimpy) but that team just came apart and wasn’t disciplined at the end.

That revalation also explains part of why Jackson was ready to move on from the team at that point. There were certainly other factors involved, but he needed time to recover and recuperate.

That time off to get healthy (he had surgery but we don’t have a formal update on his status) would explain why he is ready to return to the game now — he feels like his old self. Not that he wants to coach, but a few teams are interested in him possibly taking on a team president kind of role.

  1. fventricle - Apr 28, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    “Cancer is a bitch, even if it’s a curable one. We’ll have to give it the best shot we have.” – George Karl

  2. andrewproughcfe - Apr 28, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    That’s rough, when they won’t even play hard for your Johnson.

  3. money2long - Apr 28, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    there’s always a method to phil jackson’s madness. that’s why he is the zen master.

  4. ninthwardfriend - Apr 28, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Zen master? Wow. He is a strong individual. Much love Phil….

  5. cantonbound13 - Apr 28, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    He was diagnosed by Mantei Teo’s doctor.

    • namriverrat69 - Apr 28, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      It was Te’o”s fiance, Lennay Kekua’s doctor.

      • teambringitstrong - Apr 28, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        After those 2 ‘comment’s I’m reminded of an old Southern saying. Killin is too good for ya.

  6. buffalo65 - Apr 28, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Don’t worry Phil, Canada has health care, welcome to Toronto.

    • fanofevilempire - Apr 29, 2013 at 6:37 PM

      I always loved that place….

  7. namriverrat69 - Apr 29, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    I meant no disrespect to Phil. I have the utmost admiration for him after watching him play for the Knicks back in the day and being a fan of his coaching career. The comment before mine struck me as funny. There is nothing funny about cancer. I am an agent orange cancer survivor myself. It is now obvious why he walked away from the Lakers after that season. Cancer is absolutely the toughest opponent one can face.

    He wouldn’t have considered coming back this year if he wasn’t healthy. Jim Buss knew what he had been through which makes his treatment of Phil last fall all the more outrageously disgusting. Best of health to you Phil.

    • fanofevilempire - Apr 29, 2013 at 6:39 PM

      best of health to you.

  8. mazblast - Apr 29, 2013 at 1:24 AM

    “they needed Andrew Bynum and didn’t have him”

    Huh? That was Bynum who low-bridged J.J. Berea in the last game, got tossed, and tore off his jersey, wasn’t it?

    Cancer is serious stuff, though, and if Phil indeed had prostate cancer, he did the right thing in stepping down/away. However, this could just be more Zen BS from the “Zen Master” and his usual grab for attention. It’s curious how this is “revealed” with the Lakers on the brink of elimination.

    • manchestermiracle - Apr 29, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Yeah, maz, faking cancer to motivate your team is such a popular strategy for shoo-in Hall of Fame coaches. Hey, at least you have the whole summer to come up with a conspiracy theory that doesn’t sound like it came from a third-grader! Good luck.

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