Beef LeBron and Phil Jackson and its impact on the Los Angeles Lakers

Over the past week, Phil Jackson’s name has been more prevalent in the news regarding the Los Angeles Lakers than LeBron James.

Last Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski used a spot on national television to suggest that Jackson — an 11-time champion coach, including five with the Lakers — was consulting his ex-fiancée Jenny Boss about the hunt for all-important coaching for the franchise. It came a few months after The Athletic reported that Jackson had been advising Jenny all season on basketball matters, including Russell Westbrook’s tense state.

At first, this was no reason for Lakers fans to panic. Aside from Phil and Jenny’s personal history, it seems entirely reasonable that the Lakers assistant owner would ask for his coaching advice. He consulted previous research on training the Lakers as well, which had them target two Super Candidates (Monty Williams, Ty Lowe) before landing his former scout, Frank Vogel, who presented a championship. Additionally, Jackson is Nick’s nurse teacher, who would be a dream job in Los Angeles. In terms of Westbrook, Jackson’s most recognizable strength as a leader has been star management.

After all, Jackson is the most successful coach in NBA history. As long as the 76-year-old isn’t a candidate to coach the team in 2022-23 (he isn’t) or plays a shadow executive advising Rob Pelinka and his long-time friend and teammate Kurt Rambis on staff decisions – or successfully convincing them to incorporate the once-brilliant Triangle Previously but now outdated – then well, ask for his advice.

The tone changed slightly a few days later with a report in The Athletic revealing that Jackson’s unofficial influence was noticeable enough to irritate some “powerful people” within the Lakers organization. Who could it be, I wonder? He’s definitely not Kurt or Linda Rampis. And – unlike Magic Johnson, who is also still consulted by Jenny – it’s hard to imagine Pelinka getting on so much with Phil, who has formed a deep bond with Pelinka’s boyfriend, Kobe Bryant.

So: Could it be that the superstar and his colossal agent are the ones who still wield great power inwardly, and are definitely not proficient with the Zen Master?

Here’s where it gets even more worrisome if you’re a Lakers fan. The relationship between the Lakers, LeBron, and Clouch is not in the best place. Based on various reports, tea leaves, and intel, the Lakers blame the LeBron camp for Ross’ trade (although Pelinka was on board). On the trade deadline, Pelinka annoyed LeBron and Cluch by claiming that everyone was “allied” on the inactivity deadline, when, in fact, Cluch wanted Westbrook to move. LeBron spent the ensuing days praising every GM in sports who changed his name by Pelinka and publicly brainstorming a return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

LeBron is eligible to sign a two-year, $97.1 million extension on August 4. He will be on the table until June 2023. The Lakers are confident enough in his enjoyment of living in Los Angeles and playing with the Lakers to let him take things year after year, even if he doesn’t immediately ink pen with paper.

However, they prefer to sign it as soon as possible. LeBron’s chances of doing so increase if he agrees with the organizational direction – which will be demonstrated by their upcoming off-season moves – and his faith in the front office.

With that context in mind, here’s a quick update on the beef between LeBron and Phil:

In November 2016, when Phil was mired in a disastrous period as president of the New York Knicks — whose reputation has done him no favors among the current generation of Flyers — he made this unfortunate comment to ESPN about LeBron leaving the Miami Heat.

“They had to hurt when they lost LeBron. That was definitely a slap in the face. But there were a lot of little things that came out of it. When LeBron was playing with the Heat, they went to Cleveland, and he wanted to spend the night. They don’t do overnight. The difference Just don’t. So Spoelstra now has to text Riley and say, “What am I doing in this situation?” and Pat, who has Iron Fist rules, replies, “You’re on board. You are with this team. You can’t stop the whole team because you, your mom, and your partner want an extra night in Cleveland… LeBron loves the special treatment. He needs things his way.”

LeBron and his business partner Maverick Carter applauded.

LeBron answered “zero” when asked if he had a personal connection to Jackson. “No relation at all. I only respected him as a coach for what he was able to do. Obviously he was at the helm with my all-time favorite (Michael Jordan), and also he was there growing up and watching it with the Lakers. But I didn’t get anything for him.”

“I’ve been in the league for 14 years, and since the beginning of the two years I’ve felt like I wanted to put my guys in positions of authority, and give these guys a chance to improve themselves. You know, in the beginning we were very criticized and I was criticized very much about what I wanted to do to help some of the guys from Transform me to become very successful in business.

“It’s annoying now at this point to have one of the largest businesses you can own on and off the ground, having an authorized agent in Rich Paul, an authorized business partner in Maverick Carter who has done so many wonderful business (deals), that the title of young Americans of origin African is the word “posse.” If you go and read the definition of “posse,” it is not what I have built in my career. It is not what I stand for, and it is not what my family stands for. I think the only reason he uses that word is because he sees young African Americans trying to make a difference. …if he (Phil) says it to the media, you can just imagine what he’s saying when he doesn’t have a camera attached to him or a headphone or whatever you guys are recording on.”

Maf didn’t back down either.

“It’s the word ‘posse,’ and the characterization that offended him,” Carter said. “If LeBron and his agent say, LeBron and his business partners or LeBron and his friends, it’s one thing. However, since you are young and black, he could use that word. We are grown men.”

Jackson did not apologize.

Phil also burned bridges with LeBron’s best friend Carmelo Anthony. After being re-signed to the Knicks, Jackson had an embarrassing season on him across the media. Milo said he thought Phil was going to trade him in for a “bag of potato chips.” Phil eventually traded Anthony, which is a good bet to play another season with the Lakers in 2022-23.

“When Phil came in, he was just like him, he cut that line of communication from me from the front office, from the staff, even the players,” Anthony said in August 2021. “You know what I’m saying? The moment I knew this was the game that was being played, like ‘nah’.”

In the end, this may not be a huge deal. Unless Phil gets more involved than we realize, it’s unlikely that LeBron will make a life-changing decision based on Jackson’s unofficial counseling. But in a shaky moment between LeBron and the Lakers, it’s not ideal to rub your star the wrong way.

Jazz, Quinn Snyder, Lakers

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