The Los Angeles Lakers picked up a much-needed win on Saturday night, coming back from a 14-point deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors and snap a four-game losing streak. LeBron James led the way with 56 points, setting a new high for his Lakers tenure, and for one night at least there were good vibes around the team.
Based on how this season has transpired, though, it was always only a matter of time before the drama started up again. And it has on Monday in a rather unexpected way. As it turns out, former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson has quietly been in contact with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss (also his former fiancée) all season long regarding team matters, according to Sam Amick and Bill Oram of The Athletic.
Sources say Jackson, the Lakers legend and ex-fiancé of Buss, whose presence at Saturday’s win against Golden State was highlighted by the team’s Twitter account, has been in frequent contact with Buss about team matters all season long. The complicated and often uncomfortable dynamics surrounding the [Russell] Westbrook situation, in particular, are known to have drawn his interest. As unofficial consultants go, they don’t get much more experienced or credible than Jackson.
Truth be told, Buss’ desire to hear Jackson’s point of view on this team should surprise no one. Especially because of his close ties with [Kurt] Rambis, who — like [Rob] Pelinka with [Kobe] Bryant — has the kind of close connection with Jackson that has long been considered a factor when it comes to his own stature.
Jackson, who lives in Los Angeles during the winter months as a respite from his Montana home base, has been extremely close with Rambis for decades. They coached together during two of Jackson’s five Lakers titles (2002 and 2009), then came close to reuniting in 2012 when then-Lakers executives Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss stunned the NBA world by picking Mike D’Antoni instead.
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of this revelation without knowing more about Jackson’s involvement. Is he simply a sounding board for Buss, someone he’s had a very close relationship with for a long time? Or has he unofficially been influencing team decisions?
The note regarding his interest in the Russell Westbrook situation is particularly interesting given recent reports that higher ups in the Lakers front office have been pushing for Westbrook to be removed from the starting lineup — something head coach Frank Vogel has reportedly resisted. It would certainly be notable if Jackson played a part in those discussions.
We also cannot ignore the contentious past relationship between Jackson and LeBron, which stems from a 2016 incident in which Jackson called LeBron’s friends and business associates a “posse.” LeBron responded by later saying “I’m not a fan of Phil Jackson.” Again, we don’t know Jackson’s level of influence, nor what LeBron thinks of it, but it’s hard to imagine he’s thrilled.
While you can understand why Buss would reach out to Jackson, the shadowy aspect of his influence is just not what this team needs right now.