PHOENIX — It certainly wouldn’t be the first NBA All Star game where a bit of craziness broke out.
Whenever the NBA’s finest get together in early February, zaniness is often next to Godliness.
But on this day, it was the 63-year old coach in the corner of the room shaking up the desert sands as Lakers coach Phil Jackson implied that he wouldn’t be averse to seeing Shaquille O’Neal take a final dance in a Lakers uniform one day.
“We know that there’s always a chance you’ll have an opportunity to have a player like that,” Jackson said, a wry smile coming across his face. “I was thinking about Robert Parish coming and playing one season with the Chicago Bulls. Playing a limited role, but being an influence on a team when he’s 40 years old.
“So, we always say these old crocodiles, these alligators that patrol the lanes, have a long life span.
“So it would be great to see him back someday and, you know, coaching him.”
For months, O’Neal has been writing a rosy revision to his history with the Lakers, sending glowing compliments to Jackson and Kobe Bryant through the media, then chalking up their notorious public feuds to “marketing.”
When told of Jackson’s comments, O’Neal laughed heartily and said, “He’s right,” then sent another compliment Jackson’s way.
“He (Jackson) was great. He let us do what we did. His thing was, we’re wining and we won the championship so he’s not going to mess with it. That’s what it was about.”
There is a chance of course, this is just another marketing campaign. Or, that Jackson was a bit weary from the Lakers recent travels.
He was never wild about the idea of having to be part of the party during this four-day break after all.
Asked how he felt about signing up for another season after the Lakers played eight games in 13 days, with seven of them on the road, Jackson chuckled a bit, then shook his head.
“You come home from a two week road trip and you pack your bags for the last time, haul them out to the door and the guy’s taking them down and you wonder, `Can I go thru this thing again next year?,’ ” Jackson said.
“That crosses your mind, there’s no doubt about it. So that’s why I’ve asked the owner to let me do one year at a time.”
Meanwhile, across the room, Jackson’s two current All Stars were holding court for the assembled media, causing much less stir.
Well, except for the fact that Kobe Bryant showed up considerably late due to a delay on his morning flight.
During his 18-minute media session, Bryant deflected just about every question pertaining to O’Neal, except to joke that O’Neal “never really knew the triangle.”
The Lakers current center, Pau Gasol, spent most of his time being interviewed by the Spanish media and talking about how excited he was to watch his younger brother Marc Gasol play in the rookie sophomore game on Friday night.
Already this All Star experience is shaping up better than his previous trip to Houston in 2005, when Gasol got the flu and spent most of the weekend in bed.
“So far so good,” Gasol said. “I’m a little sick, but it’s just a little cold. Nothing like last time. The trip was tough. Freezing cities and a lot of games. It kind of wears you down. But it’s exciting to be here. I’ve was able to get some rest last night, and hopefully some more (today).”
Bryant, who was keeping a noticeably lower profile this year, said his main joy this weekend would come from seeing his friends from the Olympic team again.
“It’s a chance to get to see my guys,” Bryant said. “Chris Paul, LeBron, and D-Wade. We all formed a relationship over the summer so it’s a good opportunity to kind of catch up and just hang out with them.”
As for his reunion with his old friend?
“It should be fun,” he said. “I think it should be fun.”
It already is.