Phil Jackson’s reintroduction to the fold with the Lakers front desk was largely a surprise, but was seen as relatively harmless. Even in his advisory role and even given his checkered past as a front office CEO and in the comments about LeBron James, he certainly wouldn’t campaign for something like trading LeBron and keeping Russell Westbrook.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles Times journalist Bill Blaschke, who recently sat down only for an hours-long one-on-one interview with Lakers owner Jenny Boss, overtook the sort of report that Jackson would prefer trading LeBron and keeping Westbrook during an appearance on Doug Gottlieb’s radio show.
“I’ve heard that Phil would like to trade LeBron. I just heard it but I have nothing to back it up. There is nothing on record to back that up. I know Phil would like to keep Westbrook and try to make that work for him.”
Ah well, that’s going well.
First, we must note that he is undoubtedly a columnist rather than a skilled reporter, and his lack of much actual reporting would indicate this. Generally speaking, he is not someone with a reliable reporting record. However, there may not be anyone more established in the world of media in Los Angeles than Plaschke. Most of what he says should be taken with a grain (or pound) of salt, but there are reasons that may be subtle.
Blasch noted in his interview that in his discussion with Jenny, she was just against the idea of trading LeBron, so she definitely doesn’t feel like that’s a remote possibility. He also said he believed the Lakers would keep Westbrook next season and would make that a condition for the next coach to make him work with Westbrook, LeBron and Anthony Davis.
Now, the rest of Plaschke’s 15-minute interview is full of energy. He notes that he doesn’t think the Lakers can win a title with LeBron and AD. If your first response to that is “Actually, they won a title with them!” Then you’ll be pleased to know that undoubtedly that tournament has also been dubbed a “polluted title” because it happened in the bubble.
He also advocated several times that the Lakers needed to trade LeBron, stating that he had no connection to the city or its residents and that he would have more value to the Lakers in the trade and what he could return to them in exchange for the actual purple and gold proportions. Upon completion of the interview, he spoke about the power he believes LeBron and Klutch Sports have in the franchise and noted that “Lakers fans should hope that Phil Jackson has more to say going forward.”
Really, it was a work of art by Plaschke, one of the original great artists. Gaining proficiency in cradling so many squatters into one 15-minute interview is a skill that only comes with years and years of practice and experience. Skip Bayliss and Stephen A. Smith should study this tape in the coming days.
None of the false reports in which he’s hedged his bets feel so significant. In the interview that Blashk conducted with Jenny, she stated her desire to make LeBron happy with the Lakers and spoke about the excitement for him to chase the scoring record Kareem Abdul-Jabbar next season.
Prior to that interview, a report by Blush colleague Dan Wake of the Los Angeles Times completely halted the idea that the Lakers would trade LeBron as well. Bill Oram and Jovan Poha the athlete I also loaned this report.
None of this sounds like a team or owner looking to trade LeBron.
For Westbrook’s side, much of this still seems like a way to cash in. The Lakers hardly hold any of it when it comes to negotiations over the mysterious protection point trade entering the final year of his deal. In the end, it’s still not likely that the Lakers will bring him back next season, but a lot could unfold in the coming months.
But Lakers fans can take relative comfort in knowing that no matter what the next few months hold, it almost certainly won’t include trading the greatest player of all time, no matter what Phil Jackson undoubtedly says or wants.
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