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?

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.

Celtics look to push win streak to 16 vs. Mavs

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DALLAS (AP) — The Boston Celtics aren’t yet halfway to the NBA record for consecutive victories, a mark the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers still hold, but at 15 in a row, they are in rare territory.

Since 1946-47, there have only been 35 instances of a 15-game win streak or longer. And of all the legendary Celtics teams, this squad already holds the franchise’s fifth-longest win streak. A victory Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks, who are an NBA-worst 3-14 overall and 2-8 at American Airlines Center, would tie the 1964-65 Boston team’s 16-game win streak.

If the Celtics (15-2) get the win, they would climb closer to the 1959-60 team’s 18-game win streak, and then comes the club mark of 19 in a row accomplished by the 2008-09 team.

This version of the Celtics has to be considered the most unexpected to string together so many wins. The team has a slew of new players, starting with guard Kyrie Irving, and Boston lost another prized newcomer, forward Gordon Hayward, in the season opener.

After starting 0-2, Boston hasn’t lost. Yet, it’s not exactly as if the Celtics are steamrolling the league. For the Mavericks, who are coming off snapping the Milwaukee Bucks’ four-game win streak Saturday, the fact that Boston has actually had to rally to get a handful of its wins must be seen as an opportunity to steal a decision.

In fact, four of the Celtics’ victories during the streak have come after Boston trailed by 16 points, including a 110-109 win against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

“Most of us have never been on a winning streak like this,” Irving said following the win over Atlanta. “I don’t know if we even know how to pay attention to all the hoopla that goes on in terms of the excitement of it. I just think that every single game we take it as a challenge.”

Irving has been accepting that challenge with tremendous success after asking to be traded away from Cleveland, where he won one title with LeBron James and lost twice in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors.

He closed out those same Warriors last week, scoring 11 of the last 15 points in the final 4:21. The clutch play has Irving already being talked about as an MVP candidate.

“He’s so good in those moments that you want to give him the appropriate amount of room,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told the Boston Globe about Irving. “Maybe it’s finding a matchup. Maybe it’s creating a two-man game with Al (Horford).”

Irving will be a major test for Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who has displayed some tremendous flashes while also showing he is a green 19-year-old with one season of college ball under his belt.

Dallas, one of the league’s lowest-scoring offensive teams, is relying heavily on Smith and Harrison Barnes to carry the load. Dirk Nowitzki, 39, has dropped off significantly, averaging just 10.3 points a game, his lowest output since his rookie season in 1998-99.

Unlike the Celtics, Dallas has lost its share of games by being unable to close out games late. On Saturday, the Mavericks won a rare game going away, blitzing the Bucks with a franchise-tying 19 3-pointers. Guard Wesley Matthews said he thinks all the hard work is starting to pay off.

The history-chasing Celtics will put that claim to test.

“We can actually see everything that we’ve been trying to do come together, and hopefully that just carries the momentum into the off day where everybody’s feeling good,” Matthews said after Dallas’ victory. “We’ve got another tough battle Monday against Boston, who is the hottest team in the league right now, but it’s another opportunity for us.”