Another day, another report of palace intrigue in Los Angeles. The entire offseason has featured a variety of subtle jabs from one group of Lakers power brokers to another through the media, and today’s round of them concerns the reappearance of Phil Jackson, who earlier this week was reported as an unofficial advisor on their ongoing coaching search.
I wrote about why that may not be the worst thing in the world on its own, but it would appear that some people around the team disagree with that point a bit, as Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that not everyone involved is happy about the Zen Master’s public reappearance (emphasis mine):
Make no mistake, there are powerful people close to the Lakers who aren’t thrilled with the reality that Jackson’s voice is being taken into account when he has no formal position with the franchise. Like it or not, though, Buss has relied on this sort of informal counsel from people she trusts for years now.
Notably, Amick does not explicitly describe those powerful people as Lakers employees, an interesting, possibly intentional choice of descriptors from the same reporter who, while discussing their report that LeBron James would be “enthused” by Mark Jackson being the next Lakers head coach, brought up both LeBron’s “camp” and said that their information about Jackson was “relayed” to him by someone familiar with James, Anthony Davis and other players’ thinking.
Notably, four of the seven current players potentially under contract next year are Klutch Sports clients. And in another interesting coincidence, Amick was the reporter Klutch Sports CEO and powerful person close to the Lakers, Rich Paul, went on record with to dispute the idea that there was any fracturing of trust between LeBron James and the Lakers after the All-Star break this season.
Oh, and we all know LeBron and members of his camp have taken extremely public issue with Jackson in the past. So, anyway, I wonder who these powerful, Lakers adjacent figures are who aren’t happy about Phil’s reappearance could be. Your guess is surely as good as mine.
That said, I wouldn’t expect whoever this discontented party is to dissuade Jeanie Buss from consulting her former fiancé. After all, this isn’t the first report we’ve gotten this year of people being confused about the involvement of a powerful voice at the top of the organization.
Also worth mentioning is that further down in Amick’s story, there were two other notable reports concerning Jackson — that he’s a fan of Russell Westbrook, and that the 76-year-old doesn’t want a full-time job with the Lakers:
And how’s this for a tidbit to tie this thread up: Phil Jackson is known to have been a fan of Westbrook’s throughout his career. Sources say Phil Jackson has no interest in taking on this coaching job (or any other) himself — let’s just stop that rumor right here — but his view of Westbrook is relevant. As we’ve established, Jackson’s voice matters again.
I don’t think very many people expected Jackson to exit retirement as he approaches 80 to coach or take on a more permanent Lakers role, but still, this is worthwhile to confirm, as is his appreciation for Westbrook’s game. For now, we only know for sure that he is consulting on the coaching search, but if he thinks Westbrook was misused and that the new coach he helps the team settle on could help the former All-Star fit better, then that could be a factor in whether or not both sides try to make another run at their partnership next year.
Now, considering how toxic the entire Westbrook experience was for everyone involved, consider me skeptical that things would get to that point, but maybe if the team can’t find a satisfactory trade, they at least want to keep their options open. But for now, we can probably consider this more likely to be a bit of public posturing from the Lakers as they try to maintain some semblance of public leverage in whatever ongoing trade conversations they’re having with other teams, rather than a genuine indication that they truly see running it back with Westbrook as one of their most viable options.
Still, all possibilities are worth considering as the team figures out their next steps, and so expect them to continue to weigh all their options. And apparently, to do so with Jackson helping, no matter who in and around the organization is less than thrilled about it.