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Longtime Sports Illustrated contributor Jack McCallum has earned perhaps the toughest honor to attain as a journalist covering the NBA: the respect of the league.
It’s that respect which allows him to write books about the Dream Team, be given full access to franchises, including closed practices and strategy sessions, and to have exclusive sit downs with the winningest coach in NBA history, Phil Jackson.
In his latest encounter with the 11-time champion, McCallum talked to basketball’s Auerbach-reincarnate about the state of basketball, whether he’ll ever coach again, and of course, the struggling Lakers.
And wouldn’t you know? It sounds like he’s itching to return to the NBA.
“I would be afraid to say he’s restless, however it does seem like he watches games – he made that joke about ‘Hey, I just got the NBA package’ – but he’s very serious about watching the games,” McCallum told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny. “And I do have this idea that if a team out there, and don’t ask me which one – Washington? – wants an overseer, wants a guy to come in and be the godfather, to be the guy, that Phil Jackson would absolutely jump at that opportunity, if they could find enough money to pay him.”
In their interview Tuesday, Jackson told McCallum he currently serves as a special consultant to as many as five NBA teams, but withheld the names of those teams.
“Well the one thing he wouldn’t tell me was he says he is a consultant,” McCallum said. “He wouldn’t even tell me off-the-record. There are teams, and I don’t even know whether it’s a financial arrangement – I have a feeling it is not – but he watches games and he does watch the Lakers games. I’m not sure who he’s giving that info to. He says he does it by text – that he doesn’t write long scouting reports – but he is doing this for four or five teams.”
It would be reasonable to assume, given his past with the team, that the Lakers are one of the teams receiving the Zen Master’s insight. It’s the other three or four that remains a mystery.
Could it be the Wizards?
No one may ever know but those teams and Phil Jackson.
It is McCallum’s impression however, that Phil is very intrigued by the idea of returning to the NBA in a new, omnipotent role. It’s unknown if he currently has a short list of teams, or if he’s an unrestricted free agent, but McCallum believes the passing of Jerry Buss could be willing Jackson back to Los Angeles.
“One of the things that is attractive to Phil is not moving his two-hip replaced, one-knee replaced body all over the country,” McCallum said. “I mean, he ain’t going up to Toronto to run the Toronto Raptors. And the comment I made about Washington, I don’t know. Three-thousand miles, I’m not sure. But one has to now throw into the mix, the Lakers.”
He did say it’s safe to assume Jackson feels the Lakers are under-achieving; that they could be getting more out of Dwight Howard.
As for his ultimate landing-place, well, Phil Jackson has motivated fans to anticipate his return like only Phil Jackson can motivate.
That is to say, they have enough inspiration to believe in him, but only Phil Jackson knows what he’s really thinking.