NBA: Jackson, and Lakers, have commitment issues
By T.J. Simers
Los Angeles Times
PHOENIX — Two more games like the last two, and knowing Los Angeles Lakers fans, there will be folks willing to drive Phil Jackson to the airport for flights to Chicago, New Jersey or Good Riddance, wherever that might be.
Two more wacky media reports before Game 4 about where Phil Jackson might be working next year, and I'm telling him, "you can end all this talk, any distraction and all these rumors — just say I'll either be with the Lakers next year, or I'll be home. Go ahead."
Jackson's response: "I've always had problems committing."
"Amen," as I'm sure Jeanie Buss would tell you.
A few days ago, the only place most Lakers fans had Jackson going was Boston for Games 3, 4 and 5 in the NBA Finals, the Suns looking like a bunch of rummies in L.A.
Go ahead, raise your hand if you thought the Suns had any chance of wiping out the Lakers in Phoenix.
"I thought we'd come here and get a game, but unfortunately we were not up for the task," said Jackson, and he was probably in the minority, most folks looking for a Lakers' sweep here.
The Lakers still hold the trump card, of course, two more games at Staples Center, the Suns doing nothing special yet, as I told Alvin Gentry after the game, reminding him he said the same of the Lakers after they won the first two at home.
"I don't even get to enjoy the moment?" Gentry said, and I forgot he's a former Clippers' coach and there haven't been moments to enjoy.
But what are the chances of the Suns doing anything special in L.A. and making this more than just a bump in the road for the Lakers on their way to Boston?
What are the chances the Phoenix bench displays the same energy without the extra juice provided by the hometown fans?
And then there are the referees, humans for the most part, who seem to favor the team drawing the most applause.
The Suns attempted 74 free throws in two games here, while the Lakers had 33 attempts, including 13 Tuesday night.
"We outscored them from the field I think both games, shot better than they did, and did a lot of things very good," Jackson said. "And still it wasn't enough to win a game; they beat us at the foul line both nights and that's the difference."
I asked Jackson, "Is that the Suns being aggressive to the hoop or the officiating?"
"Oh no," Jackson said.
Later I asked, "Did I miss your answer on the officiating or aggressive to the hoop question?" and he said, "No, you did not."
"Did you answer it?" I wanted to know.
"Yes I did," he said.
"What did you say?"
"Neither," Jackson said.
"So what was the explanation?"
"I don't know. It seemed like every time we went near them, they fell down and went to the line," Jackson said, the Suns' lack of coordination apparently finding a sympathetic audience with the officials.
That won't happen in L.A., of course, the Suns bouncing off the floor like a dribbled basketball, most calls going in the favor of the Lakers, who already have the advantage of being the better team.
A week ago you wouldn't think the Lakers would need such a thing against Phoenix, but if you can't count on the bench, it's good to know there's still help available if needed.
Jeanie's tweet before Game 4: "Fellow Lakers fans — let's not get distracted by all the rumors. MOST important thing is 2nite. Lakers must focus & play their way. GO LAKERS!"
Shouldn't she be tweeting the players? Who cares if the fans get distracted by rumors? How about lobbing a phone call to Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar?
Is Phil focused?
Just like you, once Plaschke wrote it was time for the Lakers to end all this nonsense and just pay Jackson, I thought Jerry Buss would rush to the locker room and write out another big check.
I didn't think Buss had it in him to defy Plaschke.
As a result, the nonsense continues. Now we have ESPN's Chris Broussard reporting the Bulls reaching out to Jackson via "back channels," and ESPN's Marc Stein linking him to the Nets. The idea, of course, is wherever Phil goes, LeBron will follow, but as for those back channels the Bulls and Nets are using, "Those channels have not reached me," said Jackson.
And as for Broussard's report, Jackson said, "I have no, at all, desire to go back to Chicago and coach the Bulls."
Memo to Broussard: You might want to change channels.
As for New Jersey and new Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Jackson said, "I'd like to have a vodka with him at some point. He seems like a very interesting young man."
But he went on to say he had no desire to coach or live there, the "probabilities great," he said, he will still be with the Lakers.
I'll give 12 million reasons why he won't, though, if the Suns win two more games.