Should I Stay Or Should I Go: Lakers Must Win Title To Keep Phil Jackson

Josh HoffmanCorrespondent IMay 25, 2010

PHOENIX - MAY 23:  Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a call in the second quarter of Game Three of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on May 23, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

According to his longtime girlfriend and Los Angeles Lakers vice president Jeanie Buss, Phil Jackson enjoys listening to tunes from renowned musicalsmainly because he performed in one during his high school years.

However, right now the Lakers coach may very well be rocking out to another genre, perhaps of the punk-rock variety and in the form of the song Should I Stay or Should I Go by "The Clash"at least after reports surfaced that Jackson was indirectly contacted by the Chicago Bulls about their coaching vacancy.

What makes this report so interesting is not that "people close to both parties have spoken and come away with the belief that Jackson would be open to a potential reunion in Chicago next season," according to the aforementioned report, because when it comes down to it, talk is cheap.

Instead, what makes this report so interesting is: (a) LeBron James' impending free agency; (b) Chris Bosh's five-team, sign-and-trade wish list, which includes Chicago; and (c) the notion that Lakers owner Jerry Buss has already told Jackson that his reported $12.5-million salary will drastically decrease if the two parties do indeed reach another agreement for next season.

If King James truly is dedicated to being king of the NBA court and not just king of becoming a global icon, there are only three teams that can offer him a prime opportunity to make a legitimate run at an NBA championshipor a minimum of three, if he wants to garner "the greatest of greats" titlein the next few years.

Team One: The Miami Heat. The duo of James and Dwyane Wade certainly would be lethalespecially if you throw hall-of-famer Pat Riley into the mixbut LeBron is smart enough to know that winning with another superstar alongside him will make it that much tougher for him to be crowned "the greatest of greats" than if he wins by being the only superstar on his team.

Team Two: The Los Angeles Clippers. Would there be a better starting lineup in the league than a determined Baron Davis, an up-and-coming Eric Gordon, James, a healthy Blake Griffin and an all-star caliber big man in Chris Kaman? But again, LeBron is smart enough to know that the Clippers are practically cursed, and while that fab five is as great as they currently get, something or another is bound to blow up.

Team Three: The Chicago Bulls. Not only are the Bulls financially-equipped ($23 million in cap space for the upcoming season), but they already have two cornerstone piecesnamely a playmaking sensation in Derrick Rose (who is 21-years young) and a defensive force in Joakim Noah (who is only 25-years old). Since the overall consensus is that Bosh will be traded to whichever franchise signs James, the youth, skill level and potential of that foursome are more than capable of creating a dynasty in Chicagothat is, if LeBron lands there.

The argument against James jumping ship to the Bulls is simple: He does not want to live in the shadow of Michael Jordan (who LeBron was rumored to be house hunting with in Chicago last week) for the rest of his career.

I buy that, but us media members and fans make too much of that kind of thing. After all, Shaquille O'Neal did not let Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Lakers legacy get in the way of his trade to Tinseltown. Even Kobe Bryant did not shy away from being shipped off to the Lakers because of the celebrated careers that Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West each had in purple and gold.

If James does indeed decide that Chicago is the most suitable destination for his new kingdom (although I am not so sure he ever had an old one to begin with), the Bulls' coaching job instantly becomes the most attractive opening on the marketespecially for one Phil Jackson.

First and foremost, the Zen Master is already very familiar with Bulls' ownership and, as indicated in that report, he still has a friendly relationship with owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Accordingly, the foundation of trust between coach and management would already be smoothed and cemented.

Furthermore, Reinsdorf could and presumably would pay Jackson a figure considerably close to his salary this season, which essentially would be double what Jerry Buss is willing to fork out to Jackson if he was to stay on board with the Lakers next season.

But above all, Jackson would be most attracted to coaching a LeBron James-led team in Chicago because the opportunity to win anywhere from three-to-six championships would surely present itselfrather than winning only one, maybe two more rings (after this season) in L.A before calling it quits.

The only basketball-related reason why Jackson would forgo an opportunity to coach James in Chicago (or anywhere else, for that matter) is if the Lakers repeat as champions this year, which would give him the unprecedented opportunity of accomplishing a three-peat for the fourth time in his already legendary career.

We will not know where James is headed until early July, but if Jerry Buss wants to keep Jackson on the Lakers sideline for at least another season, all he can do is hope his team lifts the Larry O'Brien Trophy for a second straight season.

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