Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Does Phil Jackson return if he doesn’t snare the 12th ring?

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To begin our discussion, this quote from the Los Angeles Times:

Still, Jackson was asked again if he could see himself taking some time off and coming back to coach.

“No,” Jackson responded quickly.

Why not? he was asked.

“I think I’ve put in my service time,” Jackson, 65, said. “I think I’ve done my due diligence that I set out to do, especially with this organization.”

via Lakers Coach Phil Jackson says this is his last year coaching — again – latimes.com.

Phil’s been running out of steam for a while. He’s never been the fiery, yelling, constantly teaching coach, more the “laid back, point out to you what you did wrong in a sidemouthed way while motivating you to as many championships as possible” coach. He’s been leaning towards walking away for years, and has decided this it. He’s going to win his twelfth coaching championship, his fourth three-peat, and call it a career.

So the question is: What if he doesn’t win that twelfth ring?

BIG GIGANTIC HUGE PREFACE THAT I WANT YOU TO READ FIRST: I have every confidence that the Lakers will win the NBA championship this season, earning Phil that twelfth ring and fourth three-peat. I think that while Boston is currently the best team in the NBA and has clearly been so this season thus far, that Boston still relies on a core of bigs who are older than LA’s sequoia fleet, outside of Kendrick Perkins who is recovering from severe knee injury and Glen Davis who plays like a drunken seal who knows kung-fu. The Lakers employ Lamar Odom as their sixth man, for crying out loud. Matt Barnes is a small-minutes rotation guy. Steve Blake is their backup point guard. The level to which they have immense talent dripping from their corners is absurd. Phil Jackson wins titles, that’s what he does. So I still have every reason to believe that when the time comes, Kobe Bryant’s shot will fall, Pau Gasol will play at an elite level, and Andrew Bynum will manage to stay just healthy enough, and work just hard enough to earn that ring for LA. This isn’t mean to suggest that the Lakers are not the favorites. So put your spears down, Lakers fans. This is a theoretical exercise.

Let’s say that for whatever reason, the Lakers don’t win the championship. Kobe Bryant gets injured to the point where he can’t play (I’m pretty sure at this point that would have to involve amputation, but again, use your imagination). Pau Gasol goes down with a non-beard related injury. The Thunder go bonkers. The Spurs manage to escape with one. The Celtics rise to the challenge and down the champs in a rubber-match. Or, God Forbid in the eyes of Laker fans, the Heat really do get to that level and overwhelm all challengers.

Does Phil Jackson return? He’d be 66 next season, after promising himself he was done. But there would be Kobe Bryant, who has given him so much success, still trying to achieve that sixth ring to tie Jordan, Jackson’s other product. Pau Gasol who many say is Jackson’s academic comrade. Ron Artest who has asked for and gained so much from Jackson, a true redemption story (try not to look at his field goal percentage this season when you’re writing the Lifetime movie). And there would be Andrew Bynum, who… okay, Bynum seems to kind of annoy Jackson. But still. He’d be walking away with eleven (coaching), not twelve. Five with LA, not six. Odd numbers. Incomplete. three and two-thirds three-peats doesn’t have the same ring to it (pardon the pun).

What would it mean for Jackson, though? He’s a well-rounded philosopher, who enjoys the simpler things in life, like Montana and the company of his boss’ daughter. Does he need that ring to validate himself? Or instead, could he walk away and know that he’d done a great job, cemented his legacy, and earned more championships than most coaches dream of.

It would be a terrible decision for Jackson, one that would likely be answered by his health, in the negative. A shame for a career to go out like that, a veritable sports disappointment bordering on, but not touching, tragedy.

Doesn’t really sound like an LA Lakers-type narrative does it?

And so the alternative is clear. The championship must be won for the narrative to complete itself. Bryant must rise to the challenge as he has so often, and Pau must play the part. Life is seldom perfect and fitting and storybook. But then, the NBA is the Lakers’ kingdom, and they rule as they see fit.

Does Jackson return if he doesn’t win the last one this season?

Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.