Uncertaintly looms in festive moment
Once the confetti settles, the Lakers have some questions to answer
The first days after winning an NBA championship are a dizzying deceleration. A million miles an hour of emotion and joy, falling off into a low speed parade through downtown Los Angeles a few days later.
The afterglow lingers sweetly into the summer, making the Lakers short offseason feel longer and more restful than it should be.
If there is a sentimentality along the parade route, it is only for a championship season concluding.
Uncertainty over contracts and offseason business usually holds off a few days, and it probably would have again this season if Phil Jackson had been free on Monday morning.
Instead, he was conspicuously absent from the celebration, attending a doctors appointment that could not be rescheduled.
In one week's time, Jackson intends to give the Lakers an indication of which way his heart is leaning.
His contract expires at the end of this month and negotiations have not yet begun on a new one, according to Lakers sources. The general feeling is that if Jackson bats the right eyelash, the team will find a way to make it work with him financially.
Still, that's a lot of "ifs" and a lot of uncertainty on what is generally one of the happiest days of the year in Los Angeles.
"I think we all realize it," said Lakers point guard Shannon Brown, who can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the month.
"Some of us probably think about it more than others. I think it's definitely a realization because if you're talking about three-peating, a lot of the components that you had for the past two years have big decisions to make.
"I'm not thinking about it yet. I'm going to have fun with this process and then figure it out. But it's definitely something people think about."
At the beginning of these playoffs, as the Lakers tried to figure out how they could've limped to such an ugly 4-7 finish to the regular season, the team got together for dinner to confront what is now a sobering reality: A lot of the faces waving and cheering on the championship float Monday morning might not be back.
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"We had a team dinner where we all looked around and said, 'I may not be here, I may not be here, I may not be here,' " point guard Jordan Farmar said during the playoff run.
"We all enjoy each other and want to leave a lasting impression, if it is a last impression. Because you never know how the situation will work itself out."
Jackson will likely be the first domino to fall and whatever he decides will likely affect all the other Lakers offseason questions.
If Jackson returns, Fisher would likely come back as well because of the level of trust and respect the two men have developed over the years.
If Jackson retires, or decides to coach elsewhere, who knows?
"I really hope so," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said, when asked if he had any read on Jackson's thought-process.
"I think he's a big part of our success as a team, but obviously the main thing is his health. That seems to be the main issue. So hopefully he's capable and able to be with us as many years as he can. Obviously he's the greatest, most successful coach in the history of basketball."
For Farmar and Brown, the decision is more complicated.
Brown said he hasn't decided yet whether to opt out of his contract and test the free agent market. He has one season and $2.15 million remaining on his contract, which he can opt out of by June 30.
The Lakers can match any offer Farmar receives from another team, but are unlikely to do so if he signs a lucrative offer sheet.
While Farmar has been a valuable contributor off the bench, and the Lakers like his basketball IQ, quickness and savvy, he is not an ideal fit in the triangle offense.
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Farmar has never hid his desire to be a starting point guard in the NBA, which would be unlikely if he, Fisher and Brown all returned to the Lakers.
Though Fisher will be 36 by the start of next season, Lakers sources indicate he'd still likely start in order to maintain his stature in the locker room.
"I try not to worry too much about it," Farmar said. "I know I'm going to have a long career in this league.
"The hard part for me is not knowing whether I'm going to be back or not and able to see my guys. We're all really tight, but we all understand the nature of the business."
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.