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.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.
On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.
But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.
Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.
Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.