Following the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers held an afternoon press conference today in Los Angeles, during which Buss family spokesman Bob Steiner and Lakers vice president of public relations John Black addressed the media. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com brought us the key points, via Twitter:
9:54pm: In addition to rumblings that the Lakers would try to bring back Brian Shaw (currently an assistant on the Pacers) as an assistant if Jackson is hired, the former Bulls coach would reportedly consider bringing along Scottie Pippen to his staff as well (Mitch Lawrence of the NY Daily News reports).
9:29pm: Although this isn't much different that what has been implied before, Chris Broussard of ESPN also confirmed that Jackson's demands from today's meeting included travel restrictions for road games and an increased role in personnel decisions (Twitter link), a price which Broussard calls "steep."
8:53pm: According to Yahoo's Marc J. Spears, Jackson is expected to meet again with Lakers brass on Sunday or Monday. Should he accept an offer to coach the team, he is expected to bring former assistants Kurt Rambis, Frank Hamblen, and Jim Cleamons on board. Most notably, Mitch Kupchak has said that money will not be an issue in negotiations.
6:30pm: Kevin Ding of the OC Register (via Twitter) says that Phil's meeting with Kupchack and Jim Buss this afternoon went well.
5:45pm: Sam Amick credits a source close to Jackson who told USA Today that a deal would get done barring something significant. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com tweets that Jackson, Kupchak, and Jim Buss have all agreed to meet again within the next several days, also mentioning that Bernie Bickerstaff will remain as the interim coach in the meantime.
5:02pm: Sources with knowledge of the discussions tell Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski that the biggest hurdle remaining for Jackson is determining how he'd be able to handle the travel schedule . Wojnarowski adds that the Lakers are also considering ways in which Phil's coaching staff would be able to handle some of his coaching responsibilities, such as shoot-arounds. Lastly, former assistant Jim Cleamons is holding out on an coaching offer from China as he awaits further direction from Jackson's negotiations (All Twitter links)
4:53pm: The Lakers seem to be willing to give Phil Jackson all the time he needs to determine whether he wants to coach the team, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, who adds that the team maintains there's still a 95% chance Jackson will coach the team. Today's meeting included Jackson and executive Jim Buss, and the Lakers don't appear to have a problem with Jackson bringing his favored assistants on board, Bresnahan writes. If Jackson doesn't wind up as coach, the Lakers are thought to have interest in Mike D'Antoni, Nate McMillan and Mike Dunleavy.
4:25pm: A source close to Phil Jackson tells Ric Bucher of CSNBayArea.com that reports the job is his to turn down are inaccurate, and are being planted by the Lakers so that they can say Jackson passed on the job if he doesn't wind up returning as coach. The source is skeptical Lakers executive Jim Buss will give Jackson the authority he's seeking, though Bucher speculates that owner Jerry Buss, Jim's dad, will insist Buss give Jackson what he wants (All Twitter links).
3:39pm: The Lakers and Phil Jackson have concluded their meeting, and while the team didn't officially offer him the job, the understanding is that the job is Jackson's if he wants it, reports Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Bresnahan adds that the Lakers will interview a couple other coaches in case Jackson turns them down. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the team Sunday against the Kings (Twitter links).
2:28pm: Though Ken Berger of CBSSports.com identifies him as the team's second choice, Mike D'Antoni's camp believes the job is Phil Jackson's if he wants it, since they haven't had contact with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, TNT's David Aldridge tweets. No meetings with D'Antoni have been arranged, reports Sam Amick of USA Today.
2:14pm: A "couple more steps" must be addressed for Phil Jackson and the Lakers to come to an agreement, one of which is travel, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. The Lakers have made initial contact with the agent for Mike D'Antoni, according to Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. D'Antoni told Fox Sports Southwest and DallasBasketball.com yesterday that he's interested in the job.
1:55pm: The Lakers and Phil Jackson are "getting close," according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, who adds that Jackson has already contacted some of his old assistant coaches (All Twitter links). "I can't imagine this not working out, a source tells Broussard. "Phil's health is fine now. That's no issue at all." The travel associated with the job is the primary hang-up for Jackson as he continues to mull over whether he'll return to coach the Lakers, tweets Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
1:13pm: The Lakers are not meeting with any candidates other than Phil Jackson, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who hears from a source that, "They're all in on Phil" (Twitter link). Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times confirms via Twitter that the Lakers have not contacted Mike D'Antoni, and Mark Heisler of The New York Times hears the job is Jackson's if he wants it.
1:08pm: The agent for another Lakers coaching candidate tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports that his client doesn't have anything set up with the Lakers, who are focusing on a strong push for Phil Jackson instead (Twitter link).
11:58am: The Lakers are moving quickly toward hiring Phil Jackson as their next coach, with one person in the organization telling Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times that there is a "95%" chance he will return to the club. Los Angeles plans on meeting with their former coach this morning to make sure he is interested in the job. If he is, it would appear that he will be the choice.
Meanwhile, sources tell Ric Bucher of CSNBayArea.com that Jackson would consider returning for a third stint in Los Angeles but it would require VP Jim Buss to shift a great deal of control over to the coach rather than himself or GM Mitch Kupchak. As for former coach Mike Brown, one source told Bucher that former part-owner Magic Johnson was instrumental in the decision while another strongly denied that.
Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss this week revealed the team has arranged almost all of its contracts to end in 2014 so the purple and gold can "make a big splash in the free agent market" that summer. The big fish that year could be LeBron James, just the latest in a star-studded litany of names that have been associated with the Lakers in the past several months. After a second straight playoff exit in the conference semifinals left Buss "very disappointed" in the team at the end of 2011/12, the Lakers appear back in business of contending for titles after the acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Though Buss tells Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register that his father Jim is still "the final hammer" within the organization, GM Mitch Kupchak said the younger Buss is gradually taking over. "It's almost been a complete transition, really," Kupchak said in Ding's report.
Ding sat down with Jim Buss for a lengthy interview, and the Lakers executive shared several intriguing tidbits.
On this summer's moves:
"I've felt the last two years, we had a chance to win the championship. Adding two Hall of Famers, basically, to this squad? To me, you kind of erase that 'we're taking steps' idea. We're here. Do what we're supposed to do."
On the front-office collaboration with Kupchak:
"It's a collective effort on every step. Mitch might have his own thoughts. He might make some phone calls to see if it's even possible. And he'll introduce it to me, and I'll say, 'Give me a day to work out some numbers and see if I think it's a fit.' Basically it's the value part I do. I'm not going to question if he likes a guy. Maybe I'd say, 'Mitch, by my numbers, the guy's a $3MM player. Right now, the market's dictating he's getting six. We just can't do it.'"
On why he says he defers to Kupchak most of the time:
"That's the area that is gray for me. Mitch is fantastic at saying, 'Well, he's a good player, but he doesn't fit our team.' Breaking down a player, you can do so much number-wise. But you need that extra 'does he fit?'"
On his approach to analytics:
"To me, a ridiculous stat is plus-minus. I think it's just useless. I needed to weed out and understand what affects the game of basketball. In the past five years, those applications of numbers came into play where I believe them. It took me years to believe they do have an effect."
On his new point guard:
"The intangible with Steve Nash is he's a winner; he's dedicated. He's just a phenomenal facilitator. My numbers take that all into consideration. I'm not concerned about his defense, because he's the oil to make this whole thing run, and I think the guys will help out defensively. And I don't see as bad of defense as everybody talks about."
With great anticipation of the weekend ahead full of playoff basketball, let's take a look around the league to see what's happening from coast to coast.