A little nosing around NBA circles adds some important elements of subtext. One is that Jackson badly wants out of New York, preferring to return back to Los Angeles to be near his fiancée, Lakers scion Jeanie Buss. Jackson is believed to have an out in his Knicks deal that could free him up to do just that at the end of next season unless things between him and Dolan become untenable before that. It’s believed that as soon as Jeanie’s brother Jim Buss — blamed for the Lakers current free fall — is somehow removed from the scene, Jackson will be back as soon as he can engineer it.
As for the Knicks’ interest in Ujiri? It’s preliminary, tested by back channel intermediaries that take the temperature of a candidate before the executive search firms are brought in and the formal permissions are requested. But those channels are always close at hand in the NBA, even if the process can play out over years.
Appearing as an analyst on NBA TV, Fisher said: “I think a lot of people forget about Phil because of history within the game of basketball — one of the greatest basketball minds, coaches we’ve ever seen — there’s an assumption that he’s supposed to know what to do in every situation. He’s also still learning as an executive, as a president of an organization, which is completely different than coaching. My assumption, without assuming, is there was a lot of learning he had to do and we all had to do while working together. … I think Phil is still settling in, but organization-wide, they are still settling in as to who the Knicks are in their DNA.’’
There had been some speculation that he could leave New York before the end of his five-year contract. Jackson's deal, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, contains an opt-out clause after the 2016-17 season. But the team president said he's fully committed to the Knicks and fulfilling his contract. "Well, I'm in L.A. right now [and] I'm enjoying it," Jackson said with a smile. "But this is another part of my life. The energy that I have is directed toward turning this team around, and it's taken my full effort so far. It's been a challenge and I'm still in it and I'm in it to win it, so to speak."
Ohm Youngmisuk: Kurt Rambis on whether Phil Jackson has ever given any indication that he could leave Knicks eventually: "There's no indication that he's not committed or he's not staying, nothing outside of this team has ever been broached in any shape or form."
To this point, league sources told Sporting News, that interference has been limited. Jackson has resisted his early urges to tear down much of the Knicks’ internal structure, as holdovers Allan Houston (assistant general manager), Mark Warkentein (director of player personnel) and Steve Mills (general manager) are still in place. Houston and Warkentein have limited roles under Jackson, but player agents around the league say that when it comes to talking to the team, Mills is still the point man. “You get the sense that it lands with Phil for sure,” one agent said. “But it is still Steve Mills that you are going to talk to first. That has not changed.”
August 1, 2021 | 1:11 am EDT Update
Mark Schanowski: Watching NBA TV’s free agency special. Well respected @ChrisBHaynes reports unless there’s a major “hiccup”, sources tell him Lonzo Ball intends to work out a contract with the Bulls. Pelicans are going hard after free agent PG Kyle Lowry.
On a recent edition of the “Smartless,” podcast, James’ legendary father said he hopes to retire as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. “I truly hope that I can finish my career with the Lakers,” James said on the podcast, according to CBS Sports. “However many years that is, if it’s four, five, six, whatever, seven. I hope I can continue to play the game. I love being in L.A., my family loves being in L.A. Being with a historical franchise like the Lakers is something … It’s like me being in ‘Space Jam’ — I never thought it would be possible. You think about Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), and Magic (Johnson), and Wilt (Chamberlin), and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Kobe (Bryant), (Shaquille O’Neal) and all of them. The whole list goes on.”
“I have never said that. I laughed when I saw it cuz I’ve literally never said that. I’ve been seeing a lot of things being said. I’ve been as open about the situation as I could possibly be.” Damian Lillard on rumors that he’d give up money to be traded.
Abbott went through the details of the two’s public sparring on Twitter and the backlash he received before getting into the conversation with Lillard: “I published it and tweeted it, and then he like, retweeted it with the facepalm emoji, and then he talked to reporters and said that none of it was true. And then, I tweeted … after like a day of epic meltdown, everything in my mentions was a nightmare of people saying I’m a liar and making up stories, I’m bad at my job. And some of that just comes with the business. This was like a lot. I’ve been doing this for a long time. This was a lot. So, then I basically write what you just said Jarod. And then, Damian immediately replied to that saying he doesn’t lie. Then, he started direct messaging me and he’s in Tokyo at the Olympics, so we’re direct messaging, just like hammering away, trying to straighten it out. Then my phone rings and it’s Aaron Goodwin, who is Damian Lillard’s agent. I think I’ve known Aaron Goodwin longer than Damian has. Like, Aaron and I go way back. We’ve been through a lot of stuff, and I hold him in tremendously-high regards in a lot of ways.”
Abbott said that he wouldn’t be transparent about everything he and Lillard discussed when he requested to speak with him. But, he did share a story of Lillard’s positive vibe, even in the middle of the discussion. “Most of what happened on the phone call I’m just not going to share. It’s private. It was Dame and I getting to know each other? Actually at one point, I will tell you this funny part. I’m like, you know, ‘This thing happened, this thing happened, Twitter’s like a warzone for me now, and it’s my birthday. And Aaron starts talking, everyone starts talking, and Dame’s just like, ‘Henry, Henry, Henry, happy birthday, man.’ I’m like ‘Thank you, Dame.’”
Outside of those anecdotes, Abbott said that he called the “Dream Team” of people who would know Lillard’s leverage and control, continually insisting that neither party lied. He noted that there’s only one way out of Portland in Lillard’s case, and it would be similar to James Harden, skipping training camp, having the front office question if he’s going to give 100 percent, etc. The link to the rest of the podcast, for those interested, can be found above.
Tim Reynolds: It’s now Sunday in the US, meaning free agency starts tomorrow there, so it’s probably time to say this: Per source, when it comes to Kyle Lowry, the Miami Heat “have his attention and have had it for a while.” Buckle up, kids.
Would DeRozan realistically consider a pay cut that steep this late in his career? Constructing a sign-and-trade is another avenue but also difficult. I’d be curious to see whether the Clippers would consider placing themselves under a hard cap that would be triggered by a sign-and-trade. BT: The Lakers need shooting. One name that is coming up is Patty Mills. He can shoot the lights out and would be great off the bench. Wayne Ellington is another shooter who has interest in rejoining the Lakers. Trevor Ariza and Andre Iguodala are veteran wings who are candidates.