What’s up with Phil?

ATLANTA — Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been tough to pin down recently when it comes to coaching next season. He said in Chicago last week he would be back for 2009-10 and would not retire on top if the Lakers win the NBA championship. A title in June would be his league-record 10th, breaking a tie with the late Red Auerbach.

He was even more emphatic in Oklahoma City a few days later. “I’d like to quit at the end of this year,” he said. “But you know I won’t do it. This time of the season, when you’re traveling, it’s weary, you’re like, ‘Can I do this another year?’ But by the end of July, I’ll be ready to go back and coach basketball.”

But he told a Southern California newspaper Friday he hasn’t committed to coaching next season yet and would decide in the offseason. Jackson, 63, has had health concerns in recent years and that is always a concern. He did not attend the Lakers’ first exhibition back in October because of swelling and pain in his lower legs. He has not missed a game since then, however.

Personally, I believe him when he says he won’t decide until the summer. The season is a grind and it’s difficult to maintain an objective view of things while in the midst of them. Winning the record-setting title that eluded him last June might play a role in his decision, too. So might Kobe Bryant’s decision to stay or go. Bryant can opt out of his contract after the season ends. Health is no doubt the biggest issue, however.

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