If Jackson does leave, the Lakers likely will poke around for a marquee name, but eventually keep the choice in-house. If it isn’t Rambis, it probably will be either Brian Shaw or Jim Cleamons, who are also trusted assistants. Any of those three would get the all-important stamp of approval from Bryant as well as the support of the rest of these current Lakers.
But no matter who is tabbed, he could not reproduce the aura of calm and wisdom that Jackson brings, not to mention the klieg-light glare of the bling.
One of the keys to this mystery may be Kobe Bryant himself. Bryant is the central figure in most Laker dramas anyway. The Lakers are his team, even if his name isn’t at the top of the company masthead. When the bubbly goes flat and the Laker flags are folded up until next season, Bryant will surely have a chat with Jackson — a man who once called him “uncoachable” in a book — and lay out his vision of the future.
Much of the talk leading up to this year’s championship was Bryant’s desire to win a title without Shaquille O’Neal. But now that that is done, he has another target: Michael Jordan. The former Bulls star is considered the greatest player ever, and always will be, at least until somebody matches him in rings. Bryant now has four. Two more and it will be very difficult to keep saying Jordan is the greatest ever with the same amount of certainty.
That’s getting ahead of ourselves. It’s incredibly difficult to win a championship. Next year the Lakers will face challenges from teams in the West like Denver, Houston and Portland, and in the East like Orlando, Boston and Cleveland. There is no guarantee the Lakers will even get to the 2010 Finals, let alone win No. 11 for Phil and No. 5 for Kobe.
But after a championship is the ideal time for big dreams. It’s the opportunity for successful men who have reached the pinnacle to fire up a couple of cigars, pour glasses of excellent wine and discuss the wondrous possibilities of “What if?”
In Phil Jackson’s case, he already has a perfect 10. Why not make it even more perfect with No. 11?
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