As The Lakers Hang On For The Play-In Tournament, Decisions About The Future Loom | What Role Does Phil Jackson Play?

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The Los Angeles Lakers are 28-36, ninth in the Western Conference, and only three games up on the 11th place Portland Trail Blazers. This was not the season the front office imagined when they signed free agents Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, and Carmelo Anthony to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Westbrook has been terrible, and the situation has caught the eye of legendary former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

That Jackson is interested in the situation isn’t a big deal, but the level of influence he still holds within the organization is.

According to the Athletic, many former Lakers have varying degrees of influence within the organization. Including Jackson, Magic Johnson, and Kurt Rambis.

“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 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.”

Jackson led the Lakers to five NBA championships and has a ton of experience managing egos and getting players to buy in to a bigger goal. He likely sees the Westbrook situation as an area where he could lend his expertise.

Lakers’ governor Jeanie Buss inherited the team from her father Dr. Jerry Buss in 2013, along with her siblings. By 2017 her brother Jim resigned and she brought in Johnson to run basketball operations.

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Jeanie Buss relies on the counsel of people her father trusted, her close circle, and members of the Lakers family. Linda Rambis, wife of Kurt and Jeanie’s best friend, has worked within the Lakers’ organization since the 1970s.

Kurt won four titles as a player with the Lakers in the ’80s and has held various front office and coaching roles. He is also a close friend of Jackson’s.

Magic is a Lakers legend. Five time champion, three-time Finals MVP, and three-time league MVP. All in the purple & gold. Despite abruptly leaving his position as president of basketball operations inn 2019, Jeanie still relies on his input heavily.

“To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”

However this season ends, decisions for the franchise’s future need to be made.

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Buss, Rambis, Johnson, Jackson, and current vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, need to decide how this team plans to compete going forward.

They have one more year of LeBron under contract, two more years of Davis, and a player option for $47 million on Westbrook that it can be assured he will exercise. They have no draft capital, and no cap space.

If this team wants to be a perennial contender they need to get younger elite talent. There is no easy way to do that given their constrictions. Trading LeBron and/or Davis might seem sacrilegious, but it’s likely their only option.


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