Is the King’s time up in Lakers land?
After team owner Jeanie Buss confirmed to Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke that she’s leaning on former Lakers coach Phil Jackson to help the team bounce back after a disappointing season, Plaschke provided some insight into Jackson’s thinking about the roster.
“I’ve heard that Phil would like LeBron traded,” Plaschke said Tuesday on “The Doug Gottlieb Show.”
“I’ve just heard that but I’ve got nothing to back that up. No on-the-record stuff to back that up. I do know that Phil would like to keep [Russell] Westbrook and try to make that work with him.”
Plaschke also said he believes the Lakers would make it a requirement for the next head coach to make it work with Westbrook, who could be a challenging player to trade with one year and $47 million left on his contract. The Lakers officially parted ways with head coach Frank Vogel in April. James is up for a contract extension on Aug. 4.
Plaschke’s comments came on the same day the Times published his hours-long interview with Buss, who said she is not happy nor satisfied with the current state of the Lakers. He noted that in his discussion with Buss, she pushed back against the idea of trading James and spoke about wanting to make James happy.
This past season, the James-led team and its Hall-of-Fame roster failed to make the play-in tournament, let alone the postseason — and Buss said she is “growing impatient” with “not getting the results” she wanted after going into the luxury tax to bring in Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and other veterans last offseason.
James reportedly had a heavy hand in recruiting Westbrook, who had one of his worst offensive seasons in his debut with the Lakers.
Buss enlisted Jackson and Lakers legend Magic Johnson to help advise the team, and is leaning on both basketball minds to steer the franchise forward after the Lakers posted a 33-49 record.
“There’s no reason for me to think we can’t win with them,” she said. “Something that I learned from Phil Jackson is that there’s always a path to success. … Sometimes it might be a little bit harder than other times, … but you have to see the ability.”
Back in March, multiple reports tied Jackson to the Lakers, and said he had an influential voice in consulting the team all throughout this past season.
After coaching the Bulls to six NBA championships, Jackson led the Lakers to five titles.
“We don’t like to be missing the playoffs, I understand the fans anger and frustration,” said Buss. “I’ve got to make it better. This last year was extremely disappointing … it was hugely disappointing. I feel like we let down Laker fans, and don’t want to do that again, and we’ve got to get it right.”
In 2016, James took issue with Jackson referring to James’ handlers in an ESPN interview as a “posse.”