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Phil Jackson 'badly' wants to leave Knicks, hopes to return to Lakers

The latest report on the Zen Master's oft-rumored return to Los Angeles.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With Jim Buss' public deadline to return the Los Angeles Lakers to the Western Conference finals or step down from his job as vice president of basketball operations, the rumor mill about who should replace him has kicked into overdrive. The name most consistently churned out is a familiar one to Lakers fans: former head coach Phil Jackson.

The man who led the Lakers to their five most recent championships is currently serving as the president of the New York Knicks, but his current contract status hasn't stopped quieted rumors from flying all year that he will return to Los Angeles to head up their basketball operations.

One report stated that there was a "strong belief" that Jackson would rejoin the Lakers, and a subsequent one said there was "a zero percent chance" that reunion would happen this summer. Jeanie Buss said she wasn't trying to lure Jackson, her fiancee, back to Los Angeles, while another report said such a scenario is "definitely in play."

The latest information on the situation comes from Michael Grange of Sportsnet, who reports Jackson "badly wants out of New York."

A little nosing around NBA circles adds some important elements of subtext.

One is that Jackson badly wants out of New York, preferring to return back to Los Angeles to be near his fiancée, Lakers scion Jeanie Buss. Jackson is believed to have an out in his Knicks deal that could free him up to do just that at the end of next season unless things between him and Dolan become untenable before that. It's believed that as soon as Jeanie's brother Jim Buss-- blamed for the Lakers current free fall--  is somehow removed from the scene, Jackson will be back as soon as he can engineer it.

Now let's add some context.

This is not to doubt Grange's reporting, but "NBA circles" is certainly vague enough that it allows a degree of flexibility in who it is exactly thinking Jackson wants to leave the Knicks. Where the Knicks are in a year and if the Lakers job is open will certainly influence how much Jackson is itching to leave when his reported opt-out option hits.

Where there's smoke there is fire, and there have been enough rumors about this scenario that it's totally possible it's true, but for now it's merely the anonymous musings of other NBA executives. With anonymous reports like this, it's always important to think about who benefits from this information being out there. It's not the Jackson, the Knicks, or the Lakers, and so it's probably best to take reports like these with a grain of salt for now.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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