OKLAHOMA CITY – The Lakers may have passed over Phil Jackson this season to make what would’ve marked his third coaching stint with his team.
But the keeper of 11 NBA championships, including five with the Lakers, still exerts his influence. It turns out Jackson has become a trusted mentor for Lakers center Dwight Howard.
“Phil, he texts me and he understands how it is to come off back surgery,” Howard said. “He just said it takes a full year to recover, so you can’t beat yourself up over the things that have happened this year.”
Jackson, who has had hip replacement and knee surgeries in recent years, also recently told Sports Illustrated Mike D’Antoni’s system doesn’t suit Howard’s talents.
“Dwight just doesn’t get any touches,” Jackson said. “They’ve basically eliminated his assets.”
Howard also has struggled nursing an 11-month old surgically repaired back and a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Does Howard wonder what would’ve happened if he returned once he felt fully healthy?
“I said that plenty of times, but I don’t want myself to be thinking so much on what I should’ve done,” Howard said. “The harder I push myself every day to get better and get in shape, my body will respond. This summer, after the season, I’ll get an opportunity to train and get my body right.”
Howard maintains zero regrets for returning in late October.
“I could’ve sat out the whole season and started playing now,” Howard said. “But I felt like we had such a great opportunity. For some of these guys, the opportunity to win is very small. I just wanted to get back and do whatever I can to help this team.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org