Why Phil Jackson's Los Angeles Lakers Return Was Too Good to Be True

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Why Phil Jackson's Los Angeles Lakers Return Was Too Good to Be True
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It was almost too perfect, to the point that even folks in Hollywood might've cackled at the thought.

Another Los Angeles Lakers mess. Another Phil Jackson clean-up job. Another run to the NBA title before Kobe Bryant calls it quits. Another ride off into the Montana sunset.

As it turns out, the concept may well have been too perfect, in part because of an ongoing soap opera of egos that's part and parcel with life in Lakerland.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Jackson's demands—and the conflict with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and executive vice president Jim Buss from which they emanated—apparently became too burdensome to bear. As much as both sides will deny it publicly, Jackson's vision of a third stint with the Lakers was purely Panglossian.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
To hear certain sources tell it, anyway. He allegedly wanted the flexibility to decide which road games to attend, the freedom to allow his assistants to run shootarounds and practices, and the ultimate power over the front office's personnel decisions.

Not to mention the exorbitant salary to boot. In other words, Jackson wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

And whatever he didn't eat, he'd be free to shove in Jim Buss' face...because he's the Zen Master and he has 11 rings and his word is gospel to Kobe Bryant. Jackson's relationship with Buss, the brother of girlfriend Jeannie Buss and son of legendary Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, has long been chilly, to say the least.

Along with Jackson's brilliance is a certain smug egotism that's rubbed some superiors the wrong way. During his days with the Chicago Bulls, the Zen Master was known to belittle Jerry Krause, the man responsible for constructing the Michael Jordan-centric dynasty, and remains on poor terms with him to this day.

Jim Buss isn't nearly the basketball mind that Krause was, but he is every bit as insecure, if not more so, it seems. After Jackson "retired" in 2011, Buss went so far as to purge the organization of nearly everyone with any connection to Phil, from top to bottom.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
He's also attempted to replace Jackson twice—first with Rudy Tomjanovich in 2004 and more recently with Mike Brown—and failed miserably each time.

No wonder, then, that Jerry Buss was reportedly the one to make the call to fire Brown just five games into the 2012-13 season. Dr. Buss has had his own issues with Phil and, perhaps, was so put off by whatever Jackson wanted in their discussions this past Saturday that he wasn't willing to extend a formal offer.

Instead, he chose to show up Jackson in a spiteful manner.

Because, by most accounts, there was no official offer made, no concrete terms talked about. The two sides were supposed to reengage on Monday, with Jackson's agent flying in from Chicago to get down to brass tacks.

But the Busses didn't wait to go in another direction. By a quarter to midnight on Sunday, word broke that the Lakers had signed Mike D'Antoni, formerly of the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks. According to Phil's own statement (via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register), the Lakers broke the news to him not 20 minutes later, while he was sleeping.

Were the Busses playing the Zen Master all along? Was this whole process, including the eventual hiring of one of Jackson's coaching nemeses, intended as a retort for whatever ill will Phil engendered?

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Was it also Jackson's goal to humiliate his former employers while making them bend to his every word, as Wojnarowski suggests? Might he have overplayed his hand opposite Dr. Buss, a noted and well-respected poker player in his own right?

The gossip and hearsay behind this whole melodrama is almost more entertaining than the thought of Kobe, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash playing under the Zen Master's thumb, and may well have come to consume any chance—however overwhelming it may have seemed not 24 hours ago—that such a situation would come to fruition.

In that case, wouldn't all this make the back-and-forth between Phil and the Lakers that much more worthy of a silver-screen script? Legend comes to town, leads team to glory, is pushed out, comes back, does it all over again, is pushed out again, almost returns for a third time and, when a deal seems all but done, is spurned—or (dare I say?) doubted—a third time.

The only thing that could make this whole telenovela juicier would be a P-Jax appearance on the Clippers bench, which, given Vinny Del Negro's constant presence on the hot seat, might not be so far-fetched. Even if the thought of Clippers owner and notorious cheapskate Donald Sterling shelling out that kind of cash is.

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Whatever the case may be, the public "he said, he said" between Phil and the Lakers figures to continue, perhaps even after D'Antoni officially takes over on the sideline following his recovery from knee replacement surgery. Especially if the Lakers don't turn it around in a hurry on D'Antoni's watch.

The longer it takes the Purple and Gold to get back on track, the louder the boos will be from an impatient fanbase that lobbied for Jackson's return over the weekend.

And the more everyone in the City of Angels will be left to wonder why the Lakers went with D'Antoni over Jackson, why they didn't continue negotiations with Jackson once his agent arrived, and whether the organization was actually serious about courting Phil in the first place.

Or, whether Jackson was in the wrong to ask for what he did or whether he actually asked for what he's rumored to have asked for at all.

I'm confused. Where's Morgan Freeman when you need him?

And what role, if any, might he play once someone decides to turn this never-ending fiasco between Phil Jackson and the Buss family into a feature film?

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