Kupchak, Presti Reflect on Futures of Jackson, Durant
Both are unsure what the future holds for key figures in their respective championship drives.
For the Lakers -- who ensured Kobe Bryant would be going nowhere when he signed a three-year extension worth $83.5 million on April 3 -- it's coach Phil Jackson who's in question. The NBA's all-time winningest coach has said he'll wait until after the playoff dust settles to decide whether he will be back for a 20th season, at times saying it depends on the outcome of the latest title drive while at other times indicating he was leaning toward a return.
Yet in a recent interview with FanHouse, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said that if he were a betting man, his money would be on Jackson returning.
"My sense is that he would want to continue," Kupchak said. "I spoke to him very briefly a month, month and a half ago about how I feel personally. Other than that, his guidelines to decide whether he wants to continue coaching haven't changed."
Those parameters, as Jackson has previously made clear, focus partly on his health. The coach, who is in the final year of a contract paying him $12 million this season, has undergone two hip replacement surgeries since October 2006 and dealt with arthritis that he said earlier this season is improved from recent years.
"When the season ends, he'll take a week to 10 days to get medical tests and to calm down a little bit," Kupchak said. "He's very aware that if the season ends in late June, (the Lakers) don't have much time to get a new coach if he decided not to coach so he (won't) drag it out. But he needs 10 days."
When Jackson finally makes his way to the doctor's office, no one will be more eager to hear the news than Kupchak.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything turns out positive, that his hunger to coach and his physical well-being haven't changed and that he'll come back wanting to coach," Kupchak continued. "For a guy like me, he's just a blessing to have as a coach."
The Thunder's situation isn't quite so pressing, but the fact remains that 21-year-old star Kevin Durant can receive an extension for the first time this summer. It is also true that the league finds itself in a precarious position with its players, as the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2010-11 campaign and ongoing negotiations have done little to quell fear of a lockout thereafter.
Yet while Durant is certainly the sort of MVP-caliber talent the Thunder can't let get away, it has been noted that Oklahoma City could save significantly from waiting until a new CBA is in place and offer the extension after Durant's contract expires following the 2010-11 campaign.
League rules prohibit Thunder general manager Sam Presti from discussing future negotiations, but he hardly sounded like a man who was pondering the more risky, albeit cheaper, route when queried by FanHouse.
"Nobody knows how (the new deal) is going to look," Presti said. "And for me, specifically, the rules are such that I can't even broach the topic in any respect -- publicly or privately. The only thing I can tell you is that we're looking forward to having that conversation (with Durant). We're looking forward to having that conversation at the appropriate time."
Translation: this summer.
"When rules permit, we'll sit down and have a conversation that the organization is looking forward to having," Presti continued. "We're fortunate to have him as someone that we want to have in the organization for a very long time."