Will Phil Jackson's Connection to the Lakers Ultimately Lead Him Back to LA?
The Los Angeles Lakers are finally one game above .500 at 32-31 and they still have a more-than-decent shot at qualifying for the postseason, which would be an accomplishment considering the way most of the 2012-13 NBA regular season has played out.
Reaching the playoffs would be an accomplishment for sure, but anything less than an NBA Finals appearance from this star-studded roster is a failure, and in the likely instance that scenario becomes reality, there are sure to be consequences.
The Lakers' recent stretch of strong play has probably strengthened their bid to re-sign center Dwight Howard after the season, regardless of how the rest of the year plays out because Howard finally seems to believe that he can coexist with Kobe Bryant.
Most of the tension that that could be seen between Bryant and Howard on the court has evaporated in the pursuit of a common cause, and Howard may finally be coming to grips with what it means to be a Laker.
Now imagine how happy Howard would be if the Lakers admit their mistake and fire Mike D'Antoni and convince Phil Jackson to come back?
It may not be as much a stretch as you think once you consider the unique circumstances surrounding Jackson and the Lakers, and the impact ditching D'Antoni would have on Howard's future with the franchise.
Howard has dreams of being a premier post-up center, and while his skill set may not match his vision, the very concept conflicts with D'Antoni's offensive philosophy.
D'Antoni would prefer an interior player who is strong in the pick-and-roll, but also has the ability to pop out and score from the perimeter.
This season, Howard has not been as effective in the pick-and-roll scheme as he was during his time in Orlando, and his shooting range will never consistently extend beyond five feet from the basket.
The plot thickens once you consider D'Antoni is too stubborn to alter the principles of his offensive scheme, and even if he does make small tweaks Howard will never fit D'Antoni's image of a post player.
The Lakers have mostly ditched D'Antoni's approach to up-tempo offense, but that hasn't resulted in more touches in the paint for Howard. He is still only averaging 10.3 shot attempts per game, which ranks as the third lowest of his career.
Howard hasn't been complaining much lately because the Lakers are winning and he is maximizing the scoring chances he gets in the paint, but I'm sure he still yearns to be more of a focal point for the team's offense. Jackson's triangle scheme would afford him that opportunity.
And according to this article recently published by USA Today, Howard apparently feels the same way.
Howard was reportedly in favor of Jackson returning to coach the Lakers before the surprising decision to hire D'Antoni was announced, and in the USA Today article, it was revealed that Jackson has been texting Howard words of encouragement after games.
Texting Howard is one thing, but returning to coach the Lakers after being humiliated is something entirely different, and most observers think pride will ultimately prevent Jackson from ever returning to the Lakers' sideline.
It's common knowledge that the decision to hire D'Antoni over Jackson belonged to team president Jim Buss. It's also no secret that Buss seems to harbor some animosity toward Jackson, but the franchise has seen monumental shifts since D'Antoni first assumed control.
As previously stated, the D'Antoni experiment has mostly been a failure and the Lakers' inability to live up to expectations would likely be this season's main storyline, except for the passing of beloved owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
What Are the Chances that Phil Jackson Could Return to LA?
The iconic owner's death creates even more pressure for the younger Buss to sustain the legacy of excellence his father helped create, and the pressure will only increase if Buss decides to stick with D'Antoni after a mediocre season.
Bringing Jackson back to tutor Howard would send a strong signal that Buss has the best interests of the franchise at heart, and Jackson's relationship with Dr. Buss and his long-term relationship with daughter Jeannie could help Jackson deal with the pride issue.
Would the prospects of an improved relationship with Jim Buss and the opportunity to shape the rest of Howard's career as a Laker be enough to draw Jackson back if the opportunity arises?
I'm not sure Dr. Buss' death and Howard are enough to overcome the disrespectful manner in which Jackson was passed over initially, but after watching D'Antoni cluelessly lead the Lakers this season, it's definitely worth a shot.
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