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Phil Jackson 'definitely in play' to join the Lakers in 2017

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That would coincide with Jim Buss' self-imposed deadline for contention.

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With the Los Angeles Lakers struggles over the past few seasons, the management team that has built the recent rosters has understandably started to feel their as though their seats are a little warmer. Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss set a deadline for himself to get the Lakers back to at least the Western Conference Finals by next year (the summer of 2017, a deadline his sister has said multiple times that she will hold him to), and reaching that goal appears highly unlikely.

This deadline, coupled with the Lakers' struggles, have led to rumors of a Lakers' reunion with former head coach Phil Jackson, who would take over basketball operations in his third stint with the team. While the chances of Jackson joining the Lakers this summer were shot down by a recent report, and Jeanie Buss herself said that she is not trying to lure her fiancee to run her basketball team, rumors persist that the man known as the Zen Master could return to run the organization he coached to five of their 16 NBA championships.

Bill Oram of the O.C. Register appeared on Kurt Helin's PBT Podcast, and he reported that there was a definite possibility of an eventual Jackson reunion should Jim Buss not pull off a miracle and return the team from the lottery to contention in a single offseason (emphasis mine):

"I don't see [a Jackson return this summer] happening, and again I'd have to be reminded what his buyout or opt-out with the Knicks is, because it's not this summer. He's locked in for another year. I do think it's entirely possible in one more year, that wouldn't surprise me at all.

Do I think that is the right decision? I don't know, I think that the Lakers would probably be well served to kind of get out of the same gene pool that they've been in for the last 20 years and move forward, but Jeanie obviously has a very intimate relationship with Phil and it probably makes more sense for them to be in the same organization than in different organizations. I think that's definitely going to be in play, if they don't change things up and hire some top level management this year, I think that when Phil becomes available if the Lakers are still in the market, it's going to be a natural fit."

Jackson has had some success since joining the New York Knicks as team president, most notably in drafting standout rookie Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

However, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that Jackson does have an opt out in the summer of 2017, and while the Knicks apparently think Jackson will complete his contract, it would make some level of sense for him to want to be closer to his fiancee, who just also happens to (possibly) have an opening that summer for the exact position Phil would want.

Most of this is speculative for now, but it appears that Phil Jackson could indeed find his way back to the Lakers. Again. Whether or not it will happen or if it would be a positive remains to be seen.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.