According to ESPN.com, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson will meet with Kobe Bryant later in the week which could potentially lead to Jackson's return to the bench at the Staples Center. In his book "The Last Season" Jackson had refered to Kobe as difficult to coach.
If I remember correctly, only three days after losing game 5 to the Pistons in last summer's NBA finals Jackson and Lakers owner Jerry Buss "mutually agreed" that he would no longer be the coach. It's no secret though that Jackson had told Buss that he could no longer coach Kobe, so one of them would have to be gone by next season.
When Jackson left, the big Aristotle - perenial all-star center Shaquille O'Neal - demanded to be traded, questioning the decision of Buss to get rid of "the man." With O'Neal's Heat holding the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Shaq - along with Dwayne Wade - is in position to win a fourth championship.
But simply being in position doesn't mean a thing.
While he was here, Shaq owned Los Angeles. And it's not like the fans dislike him now that he's gone.
If Phil Jackson were to return to the Lakers after a season off, there will be no one more frustrated than Shaq. What would have been the point of O'Neal's trade to Miami? There wouldn't have been a point. Shaq demanded a trade because of two key reasons: 1) he was upset with the Lakers' decision to get rid of Jackson, who O'Neal in an interview with ESPN refered to as "the man"; and 2) he couldn't get along with Kobe Bryant.
Something tells me that if Jackson would have stuck around and been able to work things out with Kobe, Shaq would have stuck around and not switched coasts and conferences.
"We could be in the fucking playoffs right now," said my Laker-fan roommate Brad. "Even a disfunctional Kobe and Shaq could make the playoffs."
With Phil and Kobe, yeah the Lakers are a playoff team, but with Phil, Kobe and Shaq they are an automatic championship contender. So what was the point of this season off? If Phil comes back, what the hell was the point of this past season?
Did he have something to prove? Did Phil just want to take a year off to show that Kobe was wrong in order to go back to a situation where he can now say "I told you so!"? That doesn't make any sense.
If Phil returns to the Lakers for the 2005-06 season, it will be the biggest waste of a season and biggest missed opportunity I have ever seen. This past season, the Lakers finished so far out of the playoffs that they were just happy to be the best team at the Staples Center - and for the Lakers, that's not acceptable. If Phil had decided to co-exist with Kobe (which from the looks of this meeting he is apparently now willing to do) after last season, Shaq most likely would have stayed. That's an automatic championship contender.
Instead, Phil would be returning to a team whose coach (Rudy-T) quit before the all-star break and whose superstar is just now figuring out how tough it is to be "the man" without "the big man." I don't know if that's an ideal fit for Jackson or not, but I do know that if he does decide to return, I'd have to plan my life around next season's Lakers-Heat match ups to see how Shaq handles it.