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T.J. SIMERS

Lakers' Phil Jackson now has a stand-up routine

Coach decides it's time to get on his feet to back up the team.

January 04, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers Coach Phil Jackson stands during a timeout in the first half against the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center on Tuesday.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson stands during a timeout in the first half against… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

It was kind of funny to hear Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban on Tuesday refer to Phil Jackson as a "boy toy.''

I get that all the time, of course, from the wife.

"I love it," says Phil, and I guess he was hearing it for the first time. "I consider myself an old man. I'm a boy toy? That's terrific."

I'm a little surprised, though, Jeanie didn't mention it to Phil before Cuban.

Cuban called Jackson "Jeanie's boy toy" after Jackson suggested Dallas was going to struggle without an injured Caron Butler. A logical retort.

Personally, I think it's just great when people think men of a certain age still have a little bounce to their step.

What a coincidence. Phil and I were discussing almost the very same thing after the team's morning shoot-around.

Man to man I wanted to know if he still has what it takes to get the job done. You know, you get a little older, and it's tough to keep up with those younger.

As guy-talk goes, Phil says he had already given it some thought at his morning "reverie." Later I would ask him what that was, and he would tell me to check with Vic the Brick for an explanation.

I'd rather not know.

Anyway, Phil says he's been seriously thinking about, "Getting up off the bench."

My heavens, the Lakers really are in trouble.

"I thought rather than sitting there and keeping them calm and cool, I would get up and energize them," says Phil. "I got my brace out and I'm ready to start getting up off the bench."

The coach with the game's most trophies, someone who has coached 1,916 NBA regular-season and postseason games, has decided it's time to stand up for the Lakers.

I can't imagine any news being bigger, and yet the media seemed more interested in Ron Artest's problems.

I prefer to dwell on the positive, as you know. If Jackson stands up, that's more than anything Artest has done for the team this season.

The pregame hubbub, though, focused on a report from Yahoo. Jackson found that so funny. "We used to say that when we were kids. 'You're a yahoo,' or yay-hoo," he says.

Now I can't say for sure if he was talking about the yahoo or yay-hoo reporter.

But this same reporter, who had everyone asking about Artest, went to dinner with Kobe recently. And according to his yahoo story, Kobe told him his "mentor" was MJ.

As in Michael Jackson.

"It sounds weird, I guess," the yahoo reporter quoted Kobe as saying. "But it's true." As the story goes, they used to meet at Neverland, and never mind.

This yahoo reporter, who is close to Kobe now that Jim Gray and ESPN's Ric Bucher are not, wrote that Artest "loudly confronted Jackson" at a practice.

Where would he get such a story?

It didn't appear, though, as if the yahoo reporter was all that sure about the story or had any details. He didn't mention Artest's confrontation until halfway through the story.

Ordinarily, if a reporter has something no one else has, it appears in the very first paragraph.

Jackson says he wasn't loud, and he says Artest wasn't loud.

"So it wasn't loud?" I say, and Jackson says, "It was direct. But it wasn't loud."

Phil says "it's nothing more than what can normally happen in practice," and it certainly isn't normal for Phil to stand during games.

So what's the bigger story?

"Obviously, there's either a spy or a camera or a leak that something went on in a practice," says Jackson, with everyone left to wonder who was talking to the yahoo reporter.

Jackson says he's been trying to motivate Artest for some time now, going so far now to even stand.

But the yahoo story makes the case that Phil is now just wasting his time. While most reporters were focusing on the paragraph or two dealing with Artest, the story really was about the supposition that Phil has lost it.

"Act Wearing Thin," is one of the headlines that went with the story. And the yahoo reporter, who gets along so well with Kobe, goes on to write "The Zen B.S. has run its course …"

I don't know. I would tend to lean toward the guy who has won 72% of the regular-season and postseason games he's coached.

He seems to know what he's doing. Or at least seems willing to take advice from Page 2 when necessary. Every so often the Lakers find themselves in this kind of funk, but for the most part they recover.

Maybe I only see the Zen side of things, but in the last six years on the job, Jackson's teams have advanced to the NBA Finals four times. They have won two titles.

He's different. But he's won 11 as a coach.

"I know if you throw out what you do, you really end up messing up," Jackson says. "It's a sign of desperation."

So he will continue to do what he's always done, adding the dramatic move of standing up on occasion.

And given his record, you'd have to be a real yahoo or yay-hoo to challenge his chances for success.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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