Phil Jackson is back with the Los Angeles Lakers, but probably not in the way most people would have expected. And in a turn of events that has to have stroked the Zen Master's considerable ego, his return as a pseudo-consultant came at the team's request.
Phil: "They asked if I can be of assistance. I said, ‘Yeah, I'll help in whatever area you need to have help.”— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2013
Apparently, there's no bad blood between Jackson and the Lakers after the organization passed him over for its head-coaching duties in favor of Mike D'Antoni early in the 2012-13 season.
And despite a "casual" relationship with owner Jim Buss, Jackson seems more than willing to help out.
While the 11-time champ has no official title with the Lakers, he and longtime girlfriend Jeanie Buss were front and center at a recent Time Warner Cable event. Plus, there was a conspicuous absence as well.
Phil and Jeanie were the face of the Lakers at this TWC event tonight. Phil even had a gold tie on. No D'Antoni sighting.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2013
Jackson and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak have maintained a strong relationship over the years, and even the messy coaching search that netted D'Antoni didn't come between them. According to Kupchak, the only thing that might have irked Jackson during the process was a late wake-up call.
Mitch told me, "To be honest with you I think (Phil) was upset that I woke him up. Other than that, I don’ think there’s anything there."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2013
It seems that everyone's getting along in Lakerland these days. Well, at least as far as the front office is concerned. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant could very well be at each other's throats at this very moment. And despite the harmony among the executives, Jackson isn't convinced that the team is in good health.
In fact, he's already got a few ideas he'd like to implement.
Jackson sounded like a Lakers exec at one point: "I'm trying to find a way to bring the team back to prominence...— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2013
... through getting a contract resolution going and signing the people they have to sign."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2013
That doesn't sound like someone who's a name-only consultant. Jackson has the experience—and now, apparently the desire—to help the Lakers sort out the financial mess of their current personnel situation.
It turns out all the Lakers had to do was ask.
Oh, and because this is Jackson, one of the most deliberately mercurial figures in NBA history, he planted a subtle seed that his ambitions might someday include a return to the bench.
Jackson said he has "no intention of coaching" but smiled when told intentions change. "I know. Don’t they?"— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2013
I'm already enjoying the third go-round in the Jackson-Lakers saga.