Phil Jackson on returning to Lakers (‘I don’t think so’) and coaching Rockets (‘I mean. Um’)

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Only one thing will end rumors of Phil Jackson returning to coaching:

His death.

But Jackson is still kicking, answering questions at age 68 about when and where he might coach next.

Of course, the Lakers – with whom he was a candidate before they ultimately hired Mike D’Antoni – came up first. Jackson’s 11 championship rings make him intriguing in any role, even beyond coaching.

Jackson, in a Q&A with Sam Amick of USA Today:

Q: Is there any scenario where you get back in that mix? I’ve heard some chatter that you could become even more involved there, and there’s this idea that time heals all wounds and even though the way the coaching situation went down was botched that you could play a role, whether with (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) in the front office or something else. Is that plausible at all?

A: I don’t think so. I have a good relationship with the vice president in business affairs (Jeanie Buss) — at least it has been pretty good (laughs). She’s dedicated to their family running the business and trying to feel what that’s like. Their father’s memorial service is not a year old, but he has been gone for a year now and they’re still just kind of figuring out, ‘How are we going to do this?’ So I think they want to have an opportunity to do it. And Mitch, obviously, has a relationship with (Lakers executive vice president of player personnel and Jeanie’s brother) Jimmy that has been going on since, I think, 2004 or so, when he started becoming really involved. So for the last 10 years, he and Mitch have been pretty much working together. (Late Lakers owner) Dr. (Jerry) Buss came in on things. We had a few issues. Kobe (Bryant) had an issue one year. We had an issue getting Pau (Gasol). Some of the major moves, Dr. Buss was still there. But the other stuff Jimmy and Mitch have been working on. They’ve got a relationship, so I don’t see that happening.

Q: You just took the wind out of the Lakers’ fans sails there…

A: I know, I’m trying not to gin up any hope in that direction. I don’t go to games. I keep encouraging them as fans to follow their team, and they’re having a hard time doing that. They’re not used to being in the position they’re in, so it’s tough.

Jackson has already coached the Lakers in two separate stints and tried to return for a third. I don’t think he’s lying when he says he thinks he’s done working for the franchise, but it’s hard to rule it out completely.

Maybe Jackson would succeed in a front-office role with Kupchak, and maybe that’s the type of less-physically demanding job Jackson would consider.

But his biggest appeal comes in coaching, where he’s a proven success. Any time a team nears its championship window, Jackson gets mentioned. It always seems at least a little appealing to hire a coach who’s won a championship in a majority of his seasons at the helm.

And the Houston Rockets certainly look like their championship window is opening. Led by Dwight Howard and James Harden with Chandler Parsons as an underrated third wheel, the Rockets are legitimate title contenders right now and young enough to remain that way for years.

Q: So considering the narrative on (Rockets coach) Kevin McHale has been that people wonder how long he wants to coach, do you have intrigue with that situation? I have to admit wondering that maybe you look at that like a do-over from what didn’t happen in LA with Dwight.

A: (Laughs). No, I. I’m sorry. I mean. Um, no. I don’t (pauses). I like that. That’s funny. I’ve got a (phone) call at 10 (a.m.) — how am I doing at time?

Amick: You’re running late. Thanks for the time, Phil.

Remember, Howard wanted the Lakers to hire Jackson, and Jackson had a gameplan in mind to take advantage of Howard’s skills. There was at least intrigue between the two a couple years ago.

The Rockets are well-coached, which is why they could win a championship this year. But when Phil Jackson is available, it’s always tempting – and he always stokes the rumors just enough to make you believe his return is possible.

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.

How?

The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.

Charles Barkley addresses Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dynamic (video)

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Want to hear an entertaining guy address an entertaining topic? Here you go.

Trae Young: I’ll be better than Luka Doncic

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Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be forever linked by their draft-night trade.

The Hawks took Doncic No. 3 then traded down with the Mavericks for No. 5 pick Young and a future first-round pick.

Young, via Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated:

“The thing with Luka,” Young says, “he’s a great player. I don’t understand why it can’t work out for both situations. I hear [Atlanta made a mistake] all the time. Luka’s a great dude, and I think he’s going to be a really good player. But at the same time, I’m going to be a better player. Just because of my ability to stretch the floor, get others involved, I think I’ll be better.”

Of course, Young was never going to say Doncic would be better than him. But Young didn’t have to address this so directly at all. By going out of his way to make such a bold statement, Young puts more pressure on himself.

So far, both Doncic and Young have impressed. I’ll still stick with Doncic, though. Enough to justify Dallas surrendering that extra first-round pick? That’s a far tougher call and the one the Hawks will be judged by.

Young doesn’t want that leniency, though. He’s aiming to be better than Doncic straight up and unafraid to say so publicly.

Markelle Fultz’s new free throw stroke is… different.

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Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is in his own head with his free throw stroke now. (And, likely much more than that, but we’ll stick with the free throws for now.)

Earlier this week Fultz double-clutched a free throw attempt and his stroke was a mess.

Each game that stroke seems to change and the latest one is… different. Very different.

As Vecenie notes, this is actually an improvement in terms of the release, but that doesn’t make it good. Fultz was 1-of-2 in his one trip to the stripe (as of this writing).

Still, I have never seen someone pass the ball back-and-forth between their hands as they go into their shooting motion like that. Very, very odd.