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?

Cavaliers try to convey confidence amid their own star crisis (crises?)

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the Pacers could have done better in their Paul George trade – a bold (though correct) public critique from someone who had to apologize for his handling of the last time he lost a star and is staring down the prospect of losing another star this summer and the original star again next summer.

What was supposed to be a press conference introducing new general manager Koby Altman today predictably turned into an examination of Kyrie Irving‘s trade request and LeBron James2018 free agency.

“This thing is not broken,” said Altman, who takes over a team that has reached three straight NBA Finals – winning the 2016 title – but now faces immense peril.

Both Gilbert and Altman kept their assessments of Irving’s trade request close to the vest, not even confirming it occurred. But even NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he assumes reports of Irving’s request are accurate.

Gilbert said he planned to call Silver, clearly part of an attempt to project stability. That was the transparent underpinning of the entire press conference, which included Gilbert saying he felt better about hiring Altman than any prior general manager. The plan went awry when Gilbert stumbled through an answer about why he’s never given a general manager a second contract and why the Cavs couldn’t lure Chauncey Billups, who turned down leading the front office and later said he knew of Irving’s discontent and labeled it “alarming.”

But Gilbert did give his assessments on the franchise’s biggest issues.

On LeBron’s future beyond this season: “We do not control all the cards we get dealt.”

On whether Irving will be in training camp: “Right now, Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year. So, as of now, he’s one of our best players. Sure, we expect him to be in camp.”

In context, Gilbert sounded as if he was merely saying he expected every Cavalier under contract to be in training camp until their contract status changed – not that he was predicting Irving wouldn’t be traded this offseason.

All reports are that the Cavs are proceeding as if they’ll trade Irving, though Gilbert also brought Kobe Bryant’s infamous 2007 trade request. Kobe and the Lakers reconciled, and he won two more titles in Los Angeles.

“I’m not saying that that happens here,” Gilbert said. “But the possibilities of what will happen are wide.”

The Cavs at least left the door open publicly for Irving returning. Altman downplayed any animosity between the team’s stars, echoing LeBron’s tweets. But Irving’s issues with LeBron appear to be deeper and different than face-to-face resentment, and this summer’s saga hasn’t necessarily helped.

Altman called LeBron “deeply committed to this team and deeply committed to this city” and Irving a “core piece of who we are and what we do.”

Yet, the new general manager wanted to expand discussion beyond those two.

“It’s interesting,” Altman said. “We’ve had an active offseason that I wish some of you would talk more about, in terms of what we’ve done.”

The offseason LeBron reportedly deemed frustrating?

Altman gets a pass for David Griffin’s departure, which clearly rankled LeBron. But Cleveland’s signings – Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, Cedi Osman – leave plenty to be desired, especially as the Warriors load up. A championship looks even further from Cleveland.

With the goal so high and future so turbulent, Gilbert and Altman faced an uphill battle in projecting stability today. Luckily for them, this isn’t the true measure of success.

But things that matter far more – navigating Irving’s trade request, re-signing LeBron – might not be much easier.

Watch the top 60 clutch shots from last NBA season

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It’s that time of the year when there is no basketball, so we fill the time with idle Kyrie Irving speculation and video highlights of last season.

Along those lines, above you can out the top 60 clutch shots from last season, as determined by the folks at NBA.com.

The great thing about the clutch shot list is the ball is in the hands of stars at the ends of games, so there is plenty of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and more. Personally, I would have switch No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, but it’s all fun to relive.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert: Pacers ‘could have done better’ on Paul George trade

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Kyrie Irving has requested a trade. LeBron James could leave next summer. The Cavaliers keep churning through general managers, the newest – Koby Altman – the reason for today’s press conference.

But Cavs owner Dan Gilbert looked past his own team’s turmoil and potential turmoil to take a shot at the Pacers, who traded Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

“I will say Indiana could have done better than they did,” Gilbert said after Altman refused to directly address a question about George trade talks and shifted the discussion elsewhere.

This didn’t strike me as Gilbert trying to distract from Cleveland’s troubles. He just seemed to want to take a shot at a foe, something he’s no stranger to doing. The Cavaliers are particularly salty about their trade offer for George, which included Kevin Love, not being accepted.

For what it’s worth, Gilbert is right. The Pacers should have done better. Oladipo is now on a lucrative contract extension, and Sabonis spent his rookie season showcasing the reasons people doubted him the draft. That’s a piddling return for a star, even one on an expiring contract with dreams of joining the Lakers.

Report: Kings meet with former Magic GM Otis Smith about front-office job

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The Kings lost Scott Perry to the Knicks, so Sacramento is seeking someone else to aid Vlade Divac in the front office.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Former Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith has met with Sacramento Kings officials about the franchise’s vacant vice president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN.

Smith has plenty of experience, which Divac lacks. But it’s not all good experience.

Running the Magic, Smith made numerous errors – including drafting Fran Vazquez (who has never played in the NBA) No. 11, overpaying Rashard Lewis and then trading Lewis for Gilbert Arenas’ even worse contract. If Smith’s Orlando tenure is predictive, he’ll indulge the Kings’ worst tendencies to mortgage the future for the present.

That said, Smith might have learned from his time with the Magic (though working under Stan Van Gundy with the Pistons the few couple years isn’t exactly the best place to hone long-term-planning skills). What amounts to an assistant general-manager role might be a better fit for him, too.

Usually, this opening wouldn’t garner so much attention. But Perry was lavished with praise for Sacramento’s offseason, raising the profile of this job – which already carried relative prominence. The No. 2 in the Kings’ front office is now perceived, somewhat fairly, as more important than the typical assistant general manager.