The Lakers are planning a big celebration for their ring ceremony on opening night, but one person's appearance might mean the most.
Longtime Lakers consultant Tex Winter is planning to attend.
Winter, 87, spent most of the summer in an assisted-living apartment in Oregon after suffering a stroke in late April while attending a basketball reunion in Manhattan, Kan.
The modern-day architect of the triangle offense has slowly been recovering, demonstrating good comprehension and an ability to say specific words, though he still has trouble formulating sentences.
The Lakers are hopeful he can make it to their Oct. 27 opener against the Clippers.
"Tex has been a vital part of our success over the last decade and is obviously a very important person to Phil Jackson," team spokesman John Black said. "It would mean a lot to us to have him present for the ceremony."
Jackson visited Winter in Oregon shortly after the Lakers won the championship in June.
Last season marked the 63rd year of earning a basketball-related paycheck for Winter, who played at Huntington Park High and USC before taking his first coaching job as an assistant at Kansas State after World War II.
Winter suffered the stroke while getting ready for a reunion at Kansas State, where he coached the men's basketball team that advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1958.
There will be other Lakers at the ring ceremony, including a member from each of their previous nine championship teams in Los Angeles.
The former players are Jerry West (1972 team), Norm Nixon (1980), Jamaal Wilkes (1982), James Worthy (1985), Michael Cooper (1987), Magic Johnson (1988), A.C. Green (2000), Rick Fox (2001) and Robert Horry (2002).
"In tying it in to our 50th anniversary celebration in Los Angeles, which we'll be doing events throughout the year, we thought this would be a way of making this ring ceremony unique, special and different from other ring ceremonies," Black said.
The Lakers went 65-17 last season with Andrew Bynum missing 32 games because of a knee injury. Can they come close to the Chicago Bulls' record-setting 72-10 season in 1995-96?
"I don't want the players to set that as a goal. That's not a goal," said Jackson, who also coached that Bulls team. "The goal is to go through the season in orderly fashion and build momentum to the end of the year."
Jackson has often said that a centrally located team such as Chicago has the best chance at regular-season success because of shorter flights than a team on the West or East coasts.
Regardless, the Lakers figure to get off to a good start with 17 of their first 21 games at home.
Forward-center Pau Gasol sat out practice Tuesday because of a strained right hamstring. Forward Luke Walton sat out because of a sore back. Gasol said he hoped to play Thursday against Sacramento in an exhibition in Las Vegas. Walton's availability was unclear. . . . The Lakers ended practice with a scrimmage in front of about 200 season-ticket holders at the team training facility in El Segundo. Jackson's assessment? "Adam [Morrison] shot the ball really well. 'Drew [Bynum] obviously played hard and had some success. Shannon [Brown] had a few moments that ignited the crowd, as he will. Kobe [Bryant] was good out at practice today, entertained the folks."