By Scott Howard-Cooper, for NBA.com
Posted Mar 26 2010 3:19PM
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Phil Jackson hopes to return next season as Lakers coach and does not anticipate that his return will be sidetracked by health issues or negotiations on a new lucrative contract, he told NBA.com Friday.
Jackson stopped short of saying an extension to remain in Los Angeles is a certainty, wanting to keep open his options until he talks with doctors after the season. And he conceded there is a lure to retiring. But the most-decorated coach in NBA history, with a record 10 championships, is clearly feeling better than a year ago and has been in good spirits all season.
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 shootaround 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."
But, unlike a year ago at this time, he does not expect that health will be a determining factor.
"Probably not," Jackson said. "I go at the end of the year for a medical checkup now. There are a couple issues I deal with, and if they're all 'go', then I've cleared myself. If it's a warning situation, then I'll have to have another consideration.
"I don't even think it's going to be a financial issue. It's going to be an issue about spending the remaining time of my healthful years doing basketball or doing other things that now are possible for me, that I can do that I wasn't able to do in the past, which is fly fish, climb mountains, ride motorcycles, and all those things that have been unavailable to me for about the last eight, nine years."
The update comes as the Lakers have reclaimed control of what had became a race with the Nuggets and Mavericks for the best record in the West and home-court advantage in every L.A. series until at least the Finals. The seven-game winning streak heading into Friday night pushed the lead to a comfortable 6 ½ games, muting concerns, at least temporarily, about the defending champions lacking proper focus as the postseason approaches.
Of course, L.A. didn't have the proper focus in the playoffs last season and still survived the first round against Utah and a serious scare from Houston in the second, before playing much better in the conference finals against Denver and the championship series against Orlando. Order has been restored once again, and Jackson is hoping to continue the stability into next season.
"I think the Lakers want to continue this," he said. "I think the way you finish the season has a lot to do with it. Dr. [Jerry] Buss [the owner] went out on a limb this year and risked financial security or going into the black for signing players, and this is a franchise that hasn't ever lost money. They've always been able to say, 'We made money this last year,' and that's somewhat a matter of pride for him. Signing these players just about eliminated that, unless we go deep into the playoffs, and we want to do that."
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.
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