Phil Jackson on the Lakers’ struggles: “I know what they need”

As Phil Jackson’s book tour continues, so do the tweaks regarding the Lakers.

They passed him up for the head-coaching job after firing Mike Brown and chose Mike D’Antoni instead. That plan didn’t work out so well. Persisting injuries and the Lakers’ aging personnel struggling to adapt to D’Antoni’s faster-paced system and vice versa largely contributed to the team flaming out in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs.

Don’t expect Jackson to come back. The Lakers have maintained D’Antoni’s returning next season. Jackson has also maintained he doesn’t want to coach anymore, opting instead for an unspecified front office role somewhere. But he offered precise detail on what he’d do if the Lakers approached him again about needing help.

“I would find one of my assistant coaches to help them as quickly as possible,” Jackson said Wednesday to ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd. “I know what they need. “They need to get back inside where the strength of their team is and use that presence in there to dominate games. There’s a way to do that.”
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Former Lakers executive Ronnie Lester joins Phoenix Suns

Two years after the Lakers let him go as a cost-cutting measure before the NBA lockout, former assistant general manager has joined the Phoenix Suns’ scouting staff.

The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro described Lester’s duties as a “master evaluator” and will help in other “unspecified roles.” Lester had spent 10 seasons with the Lakers as an assistant GM after first starting as a regional scout in 1987. But the Lakers didn’t renew his contract following the 2010-11 season, a move the team made to 20 employees ranging from team trainers and almost the entire scouting staff before the lockout.

Lester publicly criticized the Lakers for how they handled such layoffs.

“Ronnie was a dear friend and I thought we really worked well together,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in his 2012 exit interview. “But the people that I work with now I have a great relationship with and you have to move on.”

The Lakers have since hired Glenn Carraro as the team’s assistant general manager after spending the 2011-12 season as both the director of basketball administration for the Lakers and as general manager of the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ affiliate in the Development League.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Metta World Peace expands mental health campaign

Metta

After receiving what his publicist described as “really positive feedback,” Lakers forward Metta World Peace and the Los Angeles County Department of Health will extend their campaign through June that involved various posters and billboards featuring World Peace’s likeness throughout Los Angeles.

With the help of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the World Peace billboards, bulletins and posters appeared at the beginning of May at MTA shelters, depots, buses and trainers with a message called “Talk it out” with versions in both English and Spanish. The signs will also have contact information for LACDMH’s 24/7 phone line (1-800-854-7771).

World Peace founded Xcel University, Inc. in 2007, which delivers funds to mental health charities. He’s extensively increased his involvement ever since joining the Lakers in 2009. He raised $651,006 by raffling off his 2010 NBA championship ring and earning the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2011. World Peace has testified numerous times before Congress on behalf of the Mental Health in Schools Act, which would raise $200 million in grant funding to 200 schools. Last year, World Peace also earned recognition at the Voice Awards on behalf of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Metta World Peace releases children’s book

Metta's Bedtime stories

Even at 33 years old, Metta World Peace still acts like a child.

The Lakers forward wore a Cookie Monster T-shirt to his exit interview with general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike D’Antoni. World Peace made a cameo appearance on Nick Jr’s “Yo Gabba Gabba.”. Plenty of his interviews involve World Peace spouting off gibberish for the sake of making people laugh.

So it’s hardly surprising that World Peace just released a children’s book titled “Metta’s Bedtime Stories.” The back of the book’s cover reveals the bedtime stories include the following titles, “Tomorrow,” “Reach for the Sky,” “One Wish,” “Mud in My Bed,” and “I’m Afraid of the Dark.”
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Steve Clifford to become Charlotte Bobcats’ head coach

Lakers assistant coach Steve Clifford will become the Charlotte Bobcats’ next head coach, according to league sources.

The contract hasn’t completely been finalized, the source said. But Clifford will have two guaranteed years with a team option on his third season worth around $6 million in the 2015-16 campaign.

Clifford was originally planning to visit with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday in what would’ve been his second interview for the team’s head-coaching position, according to a league source. But Clifford was open to any head coaching position, according to someone familiar with his thinking.

Clifford’s departure from the Lakers marks another shift in which Mike D’Antoni’s coaching staff has drastically altered since the end of the 2012-13 season. Lakers assistant coach Eddie Jordan took the Rutgers’ men’s basketball position shortly before the NBA playoffs started. Mike D’Antoni informed both Bernie Bickerstaff and Chuck Person they would not be retained a week after the Lakers’ first-round playoff exit to the San Antonio Spurs. And Lakers players development coach Phil Handy joined Mike Brown’s coaching staff with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

D’Antoni currently has his brother, Dan, and Darvin Ham assistants. Some possible replacements could include Alvin Gentry and Nate McMillan, though both hirings would hinge on whether they would receive head-coaching positions. Gentry, who worked with D’Antoni as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns, is considered a coaching candidate for the Clippers. McMillan, who was an assistant with D’Antoni with Team USA, is also considered a coaching candidate for the Clippers. Regardless, D’Antoni doesn’t plan to fill all the vacancies considering he prefers a smaller staff than Brown employed before the Lakers fired him following a 1-4 start.

Brown hired Clifford, and was one of five assistants retained when D’Antoni took over following a 1-4 start. Clifford first started out in the NBA ranks as an advance scout for the New York Knicks (2000-01) before moving up as an assistant coach (2001-03) under Don Nelson. He then worked as an assistant for Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets (2003-2007) and for Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic (2007-2012).

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Phil Jackson chooses Bill Russell over Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant as greatest

Ask and you shall receive.

That’s become the theme behind Phil Jackson’s week-long media tour promoting his book, “Eleven Rings.”

Jackson has answered countless times that he’s not interested in coaching and wants a front office role. He hasn’t shied away from declaring Michael Jordan better than Kobe Bryant, though Jackson offered effusive praise for both stars. Jackson has still tweaked the Lakers for hiring Mike D’Antoni over him.

So it should hardly be surprising hearing Jackson’s take on which player he’d choose of any NBA era to start a team.

“In my estimation, the guy that has to be there would be Bill Russell. He has won 11 championships as a player,” Jackson told Time magazine. “I think that’s really the idea of what excellence is, when you win championships.”

Russell’s greatness goes beyond his championships, of course. He was considered one of the NBA’s best defenders. Russell did so while exhibiting toughness to his opponents and encouragement to his teammates.

But what if Jackson had to choose between Jordan and Bryant?

“I would flip a coin and whichever one came up heads or tails, I’d take that person,” Jackson said. “They were that good.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Kobe Bryant featured in NBA Playoffs promo

Even if the Lakers hadn’t flamed out in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs, Kobe Bryant wouldn’t have provided any postseason theatrics. Such hope quickly evaporated when he suffered a season-ending torn left Achilles’ tendon in the waning minutes of the Lakers’ win April 12 over the Golden State Warriors.

But that’s not preventing the NBA from using Bryant in their NBA Finals 2013 “BIG” campaign. After all, Bryant has proven enough to come through in big playoff moments, good enough for five NBA rings and two Finals MVPS.

The above video shows a young Bryant sporting No. 8 driving and dunking with unyielding athleticism and aggressiveness in the Lakers’ four-game sweep over the New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals. But here’s the scary part: at age 34 Bryant provided similar theatrics this year in his 17th NBA season.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Lakers mailbag: Tackling offseason questions

This should’ve marked the time when the Lakers are still in the playoff hunt. Instead, significant injuries, a swift coaching change and inconsistent chemistry resulted in the Lakers falling in a four-game first-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs. And that leaves Lakers fans with way too much time wondering how this offseason will shape up. So to tackle some questions, I dove into some e-mails and tweets in what will be the first edition of the Lakers’ mailbag.

According to you, how high (%) is the chance Lakers trade Gasol? Do you think is a good idea? Financially and on the court?
I’ve read that Pau Gasol’s value is a the highest @ the draft? Why is that? I was wondering if there are any chances Dwight Howard makes his decision before July 1?
– Louis Vanooteghem, Brussels, Belgium, Europe

Louis, I hope you didn’t pay too much on your satellite cable bill to watch the Lakers play god awful basketball countless miles away. Anyway, sorry about dashing your hopes. But there’s no way Howard makes his decision before July 1st. He’s made it pretty clear he wants to test free agency.  A person familiar with Howard’s thought process said he’s currently considering the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, though that is subject to change. Don’t expect Gasol to be traded before or during the NBA Draft. The Lakers aren’t going to do so when there’s the chance Howard might leave them.
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Former Laker Flynn Robinson dies from cancer

Former Laker Flynn Robinson died on Thursday at age 72 after fighting multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.

Robinson played one season with the Lakers, but it’s one the organization holds in high esteem. He was part of the Lakers’ 171-72 team, which won their first NBA Championship in Los Angeles and compiled a league-record 33-game winning streak. Robinson also earned the nickname “Mr. Instant Point” given by the late Lakers announcer Chick Hearn after leading the Lakers’ reserves in scoring (9.9 points per game.)

“We are very sad to hear of the passing of Flynn Robinson,” Lakers executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “Flynn played an important role on the 1971-72 Lakers team that brought Los Angeles its first NBA championship and won what is still an NBA-record 33 consecutive games. Lakers fans might remember him as ‘Mr. Instant Point,’ a nickname given to him by the great Chick Hearn, a nickname that was well-earned as Flynn led the reserves in scoring that season, averaging 10 points in 16 minutes off the bench. He was a proud part of our Lakers heritage, participating in numerous reunions and special events over the years, and he will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this time.”

Robinson played six games in the 1972-73 season with the Lakers before getting traded to the Washington Bullets. Robinson averaged 14 points and three assists over seven NBA seasons and earned an All-Star bid in 1970 when he was with the Milwaukee Bucks.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart doubts Phil Jackson doesn’t want to coach again

Phil Jackson has said it time and time again.

“I’m not interested in coaching.”

That’s why he initially retired following the Lakers’ 2010-11 season. Even if the Lakers ultimately passed him up for the job this past season, Jackson said he was still mulling over whether he wanted to take over for the 2012-13 campaign. He’s shot down numerous coaching openings, including the Brooklyn Nets and the Clippers.

As he’s embarked on a media tour to promote his newly released memoir, “Eleven Rings,” Jackson has stressed time and time again he’s only seeking a front office role in some capacity. But in Jackson’s appearance Wednesday night on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” host Jon Stewart openly didn’t believe the Zen Master’s claim.

“You’re saying to me, ‘I’m not interested in coaching. But your mustache says, ‘Get me on the court,” Stewart said jokingly. “I don’t believe it!”
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