Posted Sep 24 2010 9:51PM
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Phil Jackson opened the door to the possibility that this will not be his final season with a brief, almost passing, comment on Friday that is sure to spark months of speculation about the future of Lakers coaching.
First and foremost: It's the Lakers. On the list of potential distractions as they prepare for a run at a third consecutive championship, Jackson and his unknown future will rank somewhere between the annoyance of driving to the arena in a traffic jam and not enough hot water in the shower. Been there, overcame that.
And Jackson didn't put any real weight behind it. He loves the banter and may have been going for reaction -- there was none -- as part of the casual 40-minute press conference at the Lakers' practice facility the day before camp opened. He spent more time promoting his current assistants as potential successors.
Not even three months after the Lakers announced after many conflicting reports that Jackson would sign an extension and return for 2010-11, complete with a comment from Jackson himself that "It'll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one," he didn't make it to the first day of camp. He was asked if he was 100 percent sure this would be his final season and replied:
"I can't tell. Every year, I like to think of going into the season, 'This is it,' and doing it the right way and putting everything I have into it. This is just like a normal thing."
That would be a no.
It doesn't mean anything in the moment, beyond providing Kobe Bryant an official opportunity to lobby to keep the gang together, but months of questions will follow, beginning with the Lakers gathering Friday at media day as the official opening of the three-peat bid. Jackson won't mind. The players will barely look up to answer through a yawn. And none will have any real impact on the title defense.
"I kind of put it out in the press release that they had back in July that this is the last stand," Jackson said. "I hope it's not like Custer's."
If it actually is the last stand.
"I've kind of looked at every season as the last season, especially here for the last three years," he said. "It's not all that different. It feels kind of like the same."
Also Friday, Jackson said there is a good chance starting center Andrew Bynum, already scheduled to miss much of the exhibition schedule, will not be ready for the opening of the regular season. Bynum knew since the playoffs he would need knee surgery to repair a torn cartilage, but opened himself to criticism by waiting nearly six weeks after the Finals to have the operation, and after he went to South Africa to watch the World Cup.
Jackson was supportive of the vacation plans, saying the team encouraged Bynum to go. What the Lakers, and their important inside presence, apparently did not anticipate was the eventual outcome that the surgery would reveal an injury that would need longer to heal than first believed.
"I don't see how Andrew's going to be ready [for the opener]," Jackson said. "And I really haven't anticipated Andrew being ready to go at the beginning of the season. Now, that's an unfortunate thing. But the type of surgery that the doctor did in his knee takes a little extra time. Obviously we hadn't prepared and Andrew certainly hadn't prepared for the fact that it was going to take an extra month-and-a-half or so to rehab this type of surgery. I know he's getting battered a little bit, and he could have had the operation a little earlier. He could have come in a little bit earlier. But the end result is, what's he going to be like in May and June, and that's the important part."
Other Jackson observations:
• On the Heat offseason: "I think a lot of people have taken shots at Miami because of it, but I think it's all fair game. Players can go out and recruit. General managers and coaches can't. But they did a great job of recruiting these players. These players obviously wanted to collude together and do this. It's going to make for a very exciting season, I think. It's going to be something that people are going to look forward to seeing on the floor, seeing the production out of this."
• On Don Nelson being fired as Warriors coach: "I'm not surprised. But yet I don't like the way Don had to go out. I'd like to see him coaching on the floor and saying, 'This is my last year.' He had a long tenure, he's done a lot for the game.... I've always had a good relationship with him, except when we played against each other back in the 70s or the late-60s. He's been a great guy for the NBA. I wish him great success in his retirement."
• On whether he is surprised so many people are favoring the Heat to win the championship: "No, not really. I can see that. People favor them. I still think basketball is about defense. The Celtics play defense and they know how to do it. Whether they can sustain it for 82 games in the regular season, I don't know. But that's what it's about."
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