EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson
attended a scrimmage and a good portion of his team's practice the
past two days, and made his presence felt at Monday's workout.
Jackson, who had right hip replacement surgery last Tuesday,
jumped right in at practice and demanded his players run a part of
the offense assistant coach Kurt Rambis was holding back.
"He came in and one of the elements of the offense that I've
been holding onto because I didn't feel like this group was ready
for it, he shoved it right down their throats this morning,"
Rambis said. "So he got them going on that part of the offense."
Rambis, who has been running practices in the 61-year-old
coach's absence, said the offense Jackson insisted the players run
was simply another way to initiate the triangle.
Rambis said Jackson was around for about three-quarters of
Monday's practice, but wasn't there when the media were allowed in.
There is no timetable for Jackson's return on a full-time basis,
although he said the day before his surgery he expects to be on the
bench Oct. 31 when the Lakers open the season against the Phoenix Suns.
Jackson won't be with the Lakers on Tuesday night when they play
Utah in Fresno to begin the preseason.
Rambis said Jackson spoke to the team about communicating on
defense and passing, and the players seemed to be paying strict
"He's their ultimate leader," Rambis said. "He's the one
that's going to be commanding them for the majority of the
"He's our leader," forward Lamar Odom told the Los Angeles Times. "I just want to see him well. That's first. Captain Kurt has done a great job. It's a learning week. We have so many people to learn from."
Rambis said Jackson probably will return when his energy level
is back to normal.
"You can see that he's getting better, feeling better," Rambis
said. "Even from last night to this morning, he was spryer today
and barking out commands to the guys. You could tell the itch was
there with him. He's eager to get back."
Kobe Bryant, the defending NBA scoring champion who's still
recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee three months
ago, did a little work Monday without facing any defense. Bryant
won't play Tuesday night, and said his return to practice remains
He said he will continue to do weight training and therapy on
"I'm feeling pretty good," Bryant said. "We're right on
schedule. We're just taking our time and were taking it day by day,
but I feel it getting better, getting stronger."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.