Lakers coach Phil Jackson was reminded Tuesday night before the Lakers played in Oklahoma City that he’ll equal his nine-season tenure as Chicago Bulls coach at the end of this season with the Lakers. Asked if it feels as long, Jackson said: “It does, except I had a year break in between, so that was really nice to do.”
Jackson took a hiatus in 2004-05 after the Lakers lost to Detroit in the NBA Finals and Rudy Tomjanovich was hired as Lakers coach. But the Lakers were left without a coach again when Tomjanovich stepped down less than a year into his tenure, and the Lakers brought Jackson back after missing the playoffs that season despite still having Kobe Bryant.
Jackson brought the Lakers back to the playoffs in 2005-06 and 2006-07 before they surprised many by winning the Western Conference last season. Jackson has indicated he will coach at least one more season after this one.
On Friday night in New Jersey, Jackson will pass Pat Riley for most games coached by a Lakers coach. It will be Jackson’s 728th game with the Lakers. He just passed the Lakers’ first coach, John Kundla, who coached 725 games.
Lakers 107, Thunder 89: The Lakers flexed their muscles from the beginning, especially with a huge advantage in skill in the paint. The Lakers led, 62-38, at halftime behind Lamar Odom’s 13 points on 5-of-6 season.
• If the young Oklahoma City Thunder can emerge in future years as a threat in the Western Conference, new Thunder shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha might be one to watch as a Kobe stopper. The 6-foot-9 Sefolosha blocked two of Kobe Bryant’s jumpers in the first half Tuesday night.
• Pau Gasol, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw’s wife Nikki attended the team’s “Fit for Life Timeout” on March 16 at a Lawndale, Calif., elementary school at an event to promote a healthy lifestyle and fight childhood obesity.
Quote To Note: “I believe we can play anywhere.”—Kobe Bryant, on the possibility the Lakers won’t beat out Cleveland for home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
Rotation: Starters—Point guard Derek Fisher, Shooting guard Kobe Bryant, Small forward Trevor Ariza, Power forward Lamar Odom, Center Pau Gasol. Bench—Guard Jordan Farmar, Forward Luke Walton, Guard Sasha Vujacic, Forward Josh Powell, Center DJ Mbenga.
• F Luke Walton’s post-up game is going to be one of the primary elements in the half-court offense for the Lakers’ second unit, according to teammate Jordan Farmar.
• G Kobe Bryant made one of his hard-to-believe baskets with one second left in the first quarter Tuesday night in Oklahoma City: Bryant hung in the lane against three defenders and pushed the ball from his chest up over the rim.
• G Sun Yue was sent back to the Lakers’ minor-league D-Fenders squad while the rest of the team embarked upon its season-high seven-game trip, with the thinking that Sun wouldn’t get much out of being with the team while it isn’t practicing much.
• C Andrew Bynum (knee) is projected to be out until April with a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.