Phil Jackson says he's likely to coach Lakers next year

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UPDATE: 8:18 pm: In his pregame talk with the media, Phil Jackson sounded a little less certain, and a little more like this was all tied to winning another title. From the AP story:

Lakers coach Phil Jackson says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll return for another season on the Los Angeles bench but he might be compelled to come back if his team wins another championship.

Jackson told reporters before the Lakers’ game Friday night in Oklahoma City that “if we win, it’s almost imperative that I give it another shot.”

This is a little motivation and negotiation from Jackson. He wants to come back but: 1) Only a fool would say they are certain to do something before they enter negotiations on a contract, giving the other side leverage, and Jackson is no fool; 2) He wants to motivate his team with the “my fate is in your hands” thing. These comments do not change anything. The general feeling among people with and around the Lakers is Jackson is strongly leaning toward returning, but he wants to get through the playoffs and talk to his doctor before he and Buss sit down. That said, baring something unexpected, Jackson will return next year to LA.

3:40 pm: This news is not a surprise, everyone around the Lakers expected it — Phil Jackson was not going to walk away from the Lakers coaching gig, unless he couldn’t walk.

Jackson says he wants to come back and coach the Lakers again next year. Scott Howard-Cooper got the scoop at NBA.com.

Asked if he thinks he will be back with a new deal in 2010-11, Jackson said without hesitation: “Yeah.”

“The wear and tear of a season, I think, affects everybody, the travel and whatever else you have to do for an extended time,” he said at the Ford Center after a Lakers shoot around in preparation for the game against the Thunder later Friday. “But, all that being said, I’m as mobile as I’ve ever been in the last three years. That helps. I’m dealing with less arthritic elements that are painful things going on as you age. But there are still considerations as to the duration that I will coach, simply because I have to stay attuned to that.

“I look at something that happened like George Karl [the Nuggets coach who has been spending time away from the team while undergoing cancer treatment] and I just think it’s a shame. You can’t predict or project that as a possible situation, but he’s going to miss part of the season and it’s going to affect his team. I wouldn’t want to put a franchise in that position when there’s young healthy guys that can do the job.”

Jerry Buss will pay to bring him back — Jackson provides return on investment. Jackson may be the only coach that can sell tickets. The Lakers win under him, and the fan base considers Jackson a key part of the success. Buss has always been willing to pay to win.

A couple years ago, with one hip replacement surgery done and another one scheduled, it was clear just watching Jackson move around he was in pain. The NBA season is a grind on coaches, too — stress, lack of sleep, travel, having to deal with the media, not to mention owners. Any sane person would have done what Jackson did and considered retirement.

But the lure of more rings is strong — and this is a Lakers team still capable of getting more. Now he seems to be moving better, his spirits seem good. He seems to be enjoying the moment. Sure, $12 million doesn’t hurt, but it takes more than money to motivate Jackson.

He still savors the intellectual challenge of molding a team, of pushing the buttons and the thrill ride of the playoffs. The championship window for this Lakers team remains wide open for a few more years. There have been recent hints Jackson wanted to return, like him saying a lot of nice things about Jerry Buss lately.

Now we know for sure.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.

Bulls’ Paul Zipser has surgery to repair broken left foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser has had surgery to repair a broken left foot.

The team said Friday the operation was performed in his native Germany. The Bulls gave no timetable for his recovery.

Zipser averaged 4.0 points in 54 appearances before sitting out the final nine games last season.