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Lakers Coach Phil Jackson takes aim at Lamar Odom's wedding

In his first interview as the team prepares for camp, Jackson zings the forward who is about to marry Khloe Kardashian and says nothing has been discussed regarding his coaching future.

September 26, 2009|Broderick Turner

He looked well-rested from a summer at his lakeside home in Montana, his face clean-shaven and tanned, his future still a bit murky but his health no longer an issue for now.

As Lakers Coach Phil Jackson sat before a news gathering Friday at the team's practice site, he spoke about a variety of subjects, none more important than his contract status.

Jackson, 64 and in the final year of a contract that pays him $12 million a season, looked at the talent and depth he has on this team as a reason to be open to coaching longer, because it's a team that has the opportunity to win multiple championships.

He said he has yet to have a conversation with Lakers owner Jerry Buss about coaching beyond this season, leaving Jackson in a "lame-duck situation" for now.

Most pressing for Jackson is preparing to open training camp Tuesday night.

He's looking forward to the Lakers' bid to repeat as NBA champions after they beat the Orlando Magic in five games to win the franchise's 15th title. He's looking forward to facilitating a "seamless" transition for new small forward Ron Artest, to attending the wedding of forward Lamar Odom this weekend and to see how his players perform under the spotlight and the distractions that come with being the titleholders.

Over the summer, Jackson got past some health issues that had forced him to miss a regular-season game, and he has declared himself fit.

Now he said that having a happy Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Odom and Artest all on board is reason enough to be looking at coaching longer.

"Without a doubt, there's all kind of reason to come back," Jackson said. "The only reason not to come back is you don't win. Health issues come up. Those are the only things. It gets too hard. It gets too long. Those are some issues. But other than that, we're just having a good ride."

Jackson recalled that when he signed an extension two years ago, Buss came up to him and asked about his possibly staying on longer.

Jackson said he wouldn't be surprised if the same thing happened this time.

"We're just going to see how the year goes," Jackson said.

Jackson spoke with Lakers management about having assistant Kurt Rambis succeed him as head coach. But management was unwilling to make that promise. Rambis took the head coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"When I suggested that that set up a situation that would be a lame-duck situation, they said that they hoped that the duck wasn't lame," Jackson said.

When Jackson was unable to attend an April game against the Trail Blazers in Portland because of swelling in his legs caused by plantar fasciitis, Rambis coached the Lakers. Jackson said if he were unable to make a game this season because of health issues, the Lakers assistant who is in charge of scouting that game's opponent will coach the team.

"They're all capable of doing it, I think," Jackson said, referring to assistants Brian Shaw, Jim Cleamons and Frank Hamblen.

The addition of Artest, in the eyes of many, makes the Lakers a better team. He is considered a better defender and all-around player than the man he replaces at small forward, Trevor Ariza.

"On paper, we certainly are, we're a better team," Jackson said. "[Artest is] a terrific player. On paper you can say yes. But sometimes it's chemistry that counts between players and how they work together.

"Trevor didn't need a whole lot of shots. Ron's more of an offensive player than Trevor is, so Ron will be doing more things offensively and he'll be more of a focal point."

Of course, given his history, Artest could be more difficult to deal with than Ariza.

During the second-round playoff series between the Lakers and Houston Rockets last spring, Artest got in Bryant's face in the fourth quarter of Game 2. Artest is also remembered for his role in a brawl during an Indiana-Detroit game at Auburn Hills, Mich., in November 2004, when he played for the Pacers.

Jackson once coached the enigmatic Dennis Rodman in Chicago, and he sees some similarities between Artest and Rodman.

"I think both of them have the ability to focus very easily on something that they do and also to become distracted at certain times on the court," Jackson said. "But other than that, I don't think so."

When the subject of Odom's getting married Sunday to reality TV personality Khloe Kardashian came up, Jackson smiled.

He said he planned to attend the wedding. That it's happening two days before the start of training camp is interesting to Jackson.

"Well, we're going to give him a real good honeymoon. That's what I plan on doing," Jackson joked. "He's going to have a lot of fun right after his honeymoon. If his honeymoon lasts one night, he's going to have a lot of fun after that. . . . I'm very supportive of Lamar and want everything in his world to go right for him."

This could be a season full of distractions for the Lakers.

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