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Phil Jackson's status as Lakers coach remains the great unknown

Lakers players, emerging from exit meetings with Jackson and GM Mitch Kupchak five days after winning the NBA title, say they gleaned no new insight about whether the 64-year-old coach intends to return next season. His decision is expected this week.

June 22, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner

Will Phil Jackson come back? Not even his players know the answer.

One by one the Lakers emerged Tuesday from end-of-season exit meetings with Jackson and General Manager Mitch Kupchak, and trying to find a consensus on Jackson's plans was almost impossible.

"He gave no indication at all," said center Andrew Bynum, throwing his hands in the air. "He just hit you with the stern face when you asked him. He didn't tell me nothing."

Lamar Odom turned a reporter's question back on the reporter.

"I don't know. Do you?" he said as he shrugged.

Jackson is expected to decide this week whether to come back for an 11th season with the Lakers after the expiration of a two-year, $23-million contract.

Jackson, 64, was unavailable for comment Tuesday after undergoing a series of medical tests Monday instead of attending the team's championship parade.

Ron Artest thought he had an answer. Maybe. Perhaps.

"He said he was feeling OK," Artest said.

Apparently Jackson felt healthy, at least on Tuesday. He has had both hips replaced and has a sore knee as well as painful kidney stones.

"His main issues are health," Pau Gasol said. "He's concerned about that. He wants to continue to be part of what we're doing here. But the NBA schedule is very, very demanding."

One consensus did emerge: Every player who was asked for an opinion said he wanted Jackson back.

"I'm going to put pressure on him," Bynum said. "We all want P.J. to come back, every last one of us. Hopefully he makes the right decision."

Coming or going

Some players made their last stops at the team training facility as members of the Lakers.

Jordan Farmar is not expected back, and neither is DJ Mbenga. Adam Morrison also will not return, saying, "I didn't play so I don't know why they would want me back."

Shannon Brown can opt out of a contract that would pay him $2.2 million next season and could become a restricted free agent.

"I'm still thinking about it," said Brown, who indicated his first option was the Lakers, with whom he could re-sign for up to five years and about $34 million. "I would love to stay in L.A. and play for the Lakers. I don't know why anyone would break up a championship team."

Surgery time?

Several Lakers will go under the knife during the off-season.

Bynum plans on having surgery to remove cartilage from his right knee July 18 after returning from watching World Cup soccer in South Africa. He had almost 2 1/2 ounces of fluid drained from the knee Tuesday, the third time this month he's had the procedure.

"All the Boston guys like to beat you up," he said, referring to the team the Lakers defeated in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last Thursday.

Kobe Bryant will determine later whether to have surgery on his right index finger and right knee, areas that caused problems this season. Luke Walton might undergo another procedure on his sore back.

Brown said he did not think he needed a damaged ligament repaired in his right thumb.

Odom is contemplating surgery for a third time on a chronically sore shoulder but still plans to play for the U.S. at the world championships in Turkey later this summer.

Odom also had a revelation for Lakers coaches.

"I want to start to play a little more small forward," he said.

Odom hopes for more post-up opportunities at small forward and also is cognizant of the physical play that has taken a toll on his body in 11 NBA seasons primarily as a power forward.

Still celebrating

Artest continued to enjoy his newfound celebrity, saying it "hit me crazy" when he talked to actress Alyssa Milano while doing a segment for CNN.

"She was like, 'Wow, great game.' I was like, 'Wow, she saw the game.' I grew up watching her. That's crazy. A lot of people are just real happy. A lot of stars."

Etc.

Sasha Vujacic, on the Lakers' beating the Celtics: "Let's face it, they are a team we can't stand." . . . Gasol reaffirmed he would not play for the Spanish national team during the NBA off-season. "Not this summer," he said. "I've had three very demanding years. My body's just asking me to relax and recover."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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