Lakers Have Their Core Back
Phil Jackson is in, and so are the Lakers.
Now that their coach has ended the suspense — if you really thought there was any — and announced he is coming back for another year, the two-time defending NBA Champs have their core back.
Phil, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. That’s all they need.
Well, OK, that’s not ALL they need. But as long as they have the best coach, the best player and the best post player in the league, they will go into next season favored to win again.
You knew Kobe and Pau would be there, but you’d be surprised how many were worried that Jackson might decide to slip off to his ranch in Montana and never be heard from again.
Count me among those who never bought it. As long as his health wasn’t a major issue, and obviously it isn’t, there were too many reasons for Jackson to stay.
First, there was the money. Let’s not discount that. Even if he had to accept a slight pay cut, and we have no assurance he did, it’s difficult to turn down another $10 million to $12 million. It’s not like you can make that kind of money anywhere else.
Second, there was a shot at another three-peat. This is a coach who’s already pulled that difficult feat off three times, twice in Chicago and once here. How could he resist the delicious chance to make it a fourth time?
And third, there is Jeannie Buss, who not only is the boss’ daughter but happens to be Phil’s live-in girl friend. How far their relationship will go remains to be seen, but let’s put it this way: Jeannie isn’t exactly the type to want to settle down in the solitude of Montana. She is a big-city girl who loves the action. She personifies the glamor vibe that’s always present at Staples Center, and you’d don’t picture her leaving it any time soon.
So let’s see. There was the money, the challenge and, yes, the love interest. How many guys do you know who would leave all that?
Fortunately for the Lakers, the answer is not many.
Jackson’s return is huge, not only because the team and the town love him, but because Kobe and Pau respect him so much.
A new coach coming in, even if it had been an ex-Laker like Byron Scott or Brian Shaw, just wouldn’t have had the same aura. All his Zen Master shtick aside, Jackson knows what he is doing. He understands how to deal with a high-profile team full of large egos.
There is a coolness to Phil now, an assured attitude that says: “Hey, I’ve been here before. Let’s not panic.” You could feel it, especially after the Celtics had taken that 3-2 lead in the Finals and everybody in L.A. was . . .well, panicking.
Not Phil. He said the team just needed to take care of business in the final two games on their home court. And he was right.
Now he comes back for one more run at the trophy. Win or lose, his legacy is already safe. He belongs right up there at the top, with all the former coaching giants in this town, with Wooden, McKay, Lasorda, Allen and Carroll.
Give him that final three-peat, and they won’t even have a choice.
They’ll have to build a cool, new statue outside Staples, right next to the ones belonging to Magic Johnson and Chick Hearn.
— Steve Bisheff