Phil Jackson has denied he wants to leave the Knicks for the Lakers saying he has plenty of work to do.
Lakers president Jeanie Buss — who happens to be Jackson’s fiancee — has said there is nothing to the rumors of Jackson coming West. Plus, with the trajectory the young Lakers are on right now, why would they want to bring in Phil “the triangle offense is still relevant” Jackson?
Yet, Jackson has an opt-out of his Knicks contract next summer and the speculation of him coming West will not end. Ever. It is the Freddy Krueger of rumors, it cannot be killed. The latest incarnation comes via Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register.
Jackson and his fiance, Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss, both deny it’s happening. That’s absolutely true … as far as it goes … until Phil’s opt-out on July 1, 2017, with insiders close to both saying he could still wind up with the Lakers.
Not that Jackson is sitting around thinking about the Lakers at present with other immediate challenges, like sticking it to everyone who says he can’t do his present job.
Like all issues involving free agency, Phil’s availability will depend on the last thing that happens this season. The Knicks’ finish will decide if owner Jim Dolan is happy paying Jackson $12 million annually, which will decide if Phil feels like staying. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any case, the situation is fluid.
Never say never when we are talking about the Shakespearian drama that is the Laker family front office, but Jackson coming West would be a big surprise.
Jackson is getting paid Brinks trucks full of money in New York, and right now they look like a playoff team out East (so long as they keep using more of the Carmelo Anthony/Kristaps Porzingis at the four/five lineups). If so, it’s hard to imagine Jackson bolting or Dolan pushing him out the door (even if there a lot of questions about where the Knicks’ roster goes forward from its current makeup, and how they should build around Porzingis).
Another question is in Los Angeles: If the Lakers finish around .500 and are in the race for a playoff spot, will Jim Buss be held to his “three years to contend” timeline and get pushed out of basketball operations? Baxter Holmes of ESPN and I discussed this in a recent PBT Podcast focused on the Lakers, and he said that pressure to get Jim Buss out seems to have been eased some with the Lakers’ better-than-expected start. Whatever happens with the Buss family, the Lakers don’t need the radical shakeup that Jackson brings.
But this speculation will never die.