Just when I get done making season predictions, this news comes in. I’m not sure a timetable for Phil’s return has been suggested even privately. The Lakers made their practice plans for training camp as far back as this summer, so things should proceed smoothly in that respect.
This is not a laughing matter, but it’s a shame that a coach who takes pride in having the worst preseason record in history will miss all these exhibition games.
By Ross Siler
The Lakers will open training camp Tuesday without coach Phil Jackson, who will undergo hip replacement surgery instead. Without the surgery, Jackson was doubtful that he could meet the physical demands of the NBA season.
There is no timetable for the 61-year-old Jacksons return, although he will be released from the hospital Wednesday. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis will organize practices and would be the designated head coach in any exhibition games Jackson would miss.
“We dont expect that hell miss any regular-season games, team spokesman John Black said.
Jackson is expected to be around the team at times in the weeks after the surgery, although the extent of his presence will not be determined until later.
Jackson wavered on returning to coaching in part because of his health concerns. His arthritic hips have made moving at times so painful that the Lakers purchased a Segway electronic scooter that was available to Jackson at practices last season.
How many practices Jackson will miss in October is uncertain. The Lakers will hold single practices for four days next week and begin two-a-days on Saturday. They will play their first exhibition game Oct. 10 against Utah in Fresno.
Jackson will meet with reporters on Monday at the teams media day. He had debated having the surgery this summer but suffered a setback last week, according to Black.
“He was hoping that he wouldnt have to have it, Black said. “He was hoping that between rest and therapy that it would get better. Instead of getting better, it got worse.
“About a week ago, he basically couldnt move. He was sitting in the chair and couldnt get out of it. The pain and the lack of mobility have gotten to a point where he realized he had to do it. There was no way he could get through the season.
The Lakers now have two major health concerns going into the season, with Jacksons right hip being replaced and Kobe Bryant having undergone off-season knee surgery.
With a schedule in which they will play 16 of their first 20 games at Staples Center, the Lakers also must come together quickly to avoid giving away games in the seasons first month. They will open the regular season Oct. 31 at home against Phoenix.
Jacksons surgery will be performed at Centinela Hospital Medical Center by Dr. Lawrence Dorr of the Arthritis Institute in Inglewood.
With Jackson needing only an overnight hospital stay, he is likely undergoing a minimally invasive version of the surgery, with less pain and a faster rehabilitation schedule than a traditional hip replacement.
The Lakers have one of the most experienced coaching staffs in the league, with assistants Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons and Rambis all having served as head coaches in their careers. Black said Jackson had a long meeting with his assistants Friday.
No Jackson team has failed to make the playoffs in his 15 seasons as an NBA coach. Jackson is entering the second of three seasons on a contract that makes him the highest paid coach in basketball.