LOS ANGELES // With his record 11th NBA championship secured, Phil Jackson was evasive about his future with the Los Angeles Lakers. He's in the final year of his contract, with no word about a possible extension. He had said that if the Lakers won their second straight title, it would improve his chances of returning. He turns 65 in September. "It does improve my chances," Jackson said after the Lakers' 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. "That's a wonderful thing. That's as much as I'll talk about it."
During the trophy presentation, Jackson said he would take some time to mull his future and decide in a week. Kobe Bryant publicly appealed for Jackson to come back while accepting his finals MVP award for the second consecutive year. "He knows how bad I want him back. I've told him that," he said. "I've been openly blunt about that and told him how much I want him back. Let's go for it again. Let's go for it again."
The Lakers will celebrate their 16th NBA title with a parade on Monday. The players and their families will board a customized float at Staples Center and wind their way two miles down South Figueroa Street toward the campus of Southern California, ending at the school's Galen Center. Players will interact with fans from the float that will be equipped with audio. Lakers officials said that will help mitigate anticipated pedestrian and traffic congestion, while also relieving security, sanitation and other public services that were required last year.
In 2009, the privately funded parade and rally attended by more than 95,000 people was held at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Although the Lakers said they're hosting the parade, it wasn't immediately clear who is footing the bill this year. When Ron Artest played for the Indiana Pacers for parts of five seasons, he admitted he didn't always give his best effort. Having won his first NBA title, Artest expressed regret for his subpar performances and attitude while with the Pacers.
"When I was younger, I bailed out on my Indiana team," he said on Thursday night. "I feel sometimes like a coward when I see those guys, because it's like, 'Man, I'm on the Lakers and I had a chance to win with you guys,' and I feel almost like a coward." Artest's colourful career has been filled with second chances. He was suspended for 73 games after charging into the stands and throwing punches when a fan threw beer on him during a game in Detroit in 2004.
As jubilant as the Lakers' locker room was, it was just the opposite in the Celtics' room. "There were a lot of tears. A lot of tears," Ray Allen said. "This is probably one of the hardest feelings that I've felt in my lifetime." Emotions churned for Glen Davis, who finished with six points and nine rebounds in nearly 21 minutes. "I feel like I wanted to cry. I feel like I wanted to be mad," he said. "I'm just trying to get in a positive mind and think it's going to help me as a player. I'm blessed. Most guys don't have the chance that I've had being able to play in the finals twice in three years. Hopefully next year we can be that same team and go back."
With superstar free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hitting the market on July 1, there's a possibility that two of them could end up on the same team. "I don't want to think about that," Kobe Bryant said. "I don't want to think about playing against both of them at the same time. I want to enjoy this for a little bit." The longest possible NBA finals mean the shortest possible turnaround until the draft.
There will be only a week between the time David Stern hands out the Larry O'Brien trophy in Los Angeles and calls the name of the No 1 pick, likely Kentucky freshman point guard John Wall, next Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. "It's scary to know that the draft is close," Boston coach Doc Rivers said before Game 6. "I hadn't thought about that at all." Rivers said yesterday he only found out the other day that Boston has the 19th pick.