Jackson banking return to Lakers on health

Updated: October 2, 2007, 9:33 PM ET
Associated Press

HONOLULU -- Phil Jackson hopes to reach a decision on his coaching future in the next four weeks.

Jackson, who turned 62 last month, is in the final season of the three-year, $30 million contract he signed before the 2005-06 season.

"I just told Dr. Buss it hinged upon my recovery," Jackson said Tuesday, referring to Lakers owner Jerry Buss. "Hopefully that doesn't run into the season, when wins and losses become a priority."

Jackson underwent hip replacement surgery in June -- his second such operation in less than a year. He's still using a cane, but said he's been making progress. The Lakers open the season Oct. 30 against the Houston Rockets.

Jackson coached the Lakers to three championships and a fourth berth in the NBA Finals from 2000-04. At that stage, he wasn't invited back, and was out of coaching for a year before returning. The Lakers have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of Jackson's two seasons in his second tour of duty with the team.

"We've extended an offer to have him return," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "That's our position. We're hopeful. The lame duck situation, I don't think that applies to Phil. This is something where there's a standing offer."

Jackson enters the season with nine championships as a head coach, tying him with former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach for the NBA record. Jackson coached the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to six titles in the 1990s.

Speaking during the Lakers' first formal practice, Kupchak said he's optimistic the team will fare much better this season than last year despite a lack of major offseason moves.

"We feel that if we stay healthy, we've got a good team," he said. "Expectations aren't very high. That's OK with me. All I keep reading is we're not a very good team. Obviously, I disagree with that."

The Lakers began last season by winning 26 of their first 39 games before losing 27 of their last 43 to finish 42-40.

It was a lively offseason for the Lakers, starting last May when star Kobe Bryant criticized the front office and requested a trade. Then, apparent efforts to acquire Kevin Garnett from Minnesota failed, with Garnett being traded to the Boston Celtics.

But it was business as usual Tuesday in the wake of Bryant's appearance a day earlier at media day, when he said among other things that his top priority was to bring a championship back to Los Angeles.

When asked if he was glad to have put the events of the summer and the Bryant situation behind him, Kupchak replied: "What's the Bryant situation?"

When some of what Bryant said was mentioned, Kupchak said: "We did not end the season last year on a good note. A lot of the things Kobe talked about were related to not winning games. I am very happy being in training camp and looking forward to this season. In that respect, I'm glad the summer's over."

Notes
Eighteen players took part in the Lakers' first formal practice. All but four -- Elton Brown, Coby Karl, Andre Patterson and Larry Turner -- have guaranteed contracts. "We would carry 15," Kupchak said. "If somebody jumps out at us, we'll have 15." ... F Lamar Odom, recovering from offseason surgery on his left (shooting) shoulder, participated in the first practice. "He did a lot more today than I thought he would," Kupchak said. "He went through half a practice. That's good, as long as he doesn't have soreness."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press