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Jackson Sits This One Out

Doctors say Laker coach is doing well. Today they'll decide if he can make trip with team.

May 12, 2003|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

The keys to a complete recovery for Phil Jackson after an angioplasty Saturday are basic: Eat the proper food, get enough rest, exercise regularly and avoid stress.

Avoid stress while trying to coach the Lakers through the heart-pounding, nail-biting, sweat-inducing NBA playoffs?

The 57-year-old Jackson can do it, said two attending physicians at Centinela Hospital Medical Center on Sunday morning as Jackson was being checked out of the hospital.

The Laker coach, who had the heart procedure to relieve a 90% blockage in a main artery, did not attend Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon on the advice of his doctors.

"In conjunction with Phil," said team internist John Moe, "it was decided that it would not be appropriate for him to be coaching [Sunday].

"But he's walking, he feels very well and we couldn't be more pleased with how he's doing."

Jackson, who left the hospital at 10 a.m. and presumably went home to watch the game, plans to attend Laker practice today, then meet again with doctors to determine if he is fit to fly with the team tonight to San Antonio for Game 5 Tuesday. Jackson spoke by phone to Jim Cleamons, who filled in for him Sunday, both at halftime and after the Lakers won, 99-95, to tie the series at two games each.

"Phil Jackson is better able to control his emotional state than any human being I've ever met," Moe said. "He's one of the most intelligent people in this process that I've met. The questions he asks are right on ... He is a remarkable individual in terms of keeping his psyche and body together."

Given all that, Moe still said that it's not going to be easy for Jackson, considering his line of work. "It's going to be hard to fully control the stress," Moe said, "even with his capabilities in coaching. But if anybody can do it, it's him."

Both Moe and Dr. Phillip Frankel, the cardiologist involved in the procedure, said that stress was the major cause of Jackson's heart problem.

After experiencing tightness in his chest for about a week, Jackson went in for tests Friday.

"It would have been very bad to ignore it," Frankel said. "But [the tightness] was fairly subtle. With all the things going on his life, that slight pressure might not have seemed like a big thing."

Both Frankel and Moe said that Jackson coached Game 3 Friday after consulting with them, and he did not put himself at great risk by doing so. Upon completion of the tests Saturday morning, the angioplasty was begun, the procedure lasting a little more than two hours. An angioplasty balloon was inserted into the artery, allowing a stent to be placed in the blocked area.

"He now has much-improved flow," Frankel said.

Although Jackson will be on blood-thinning medication and a limited diet, neither doctor sees lasting problems after Saturday's procedure.

"His other arteries look great," Frankel said.

Do coaches regard their profession as being high in stress?

"I guess it's pressure-packed," said San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich, "because all of us are so competitive. But I think it's tougher on the wives and families because they have no control over what happens. Because we are in the games, we get to release some steam."

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