<
>

Jackson mulling distractions for Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Phil Jackson is back from his summer vacation in Montana, already thinking about how to minimize distractions around a Los Angeles Lakers team that returns as defending NBA champions for the first time since 2002.

He'll have his hands full, with the addition of Ron Artest, the impending wedding of Lamar Odom, the departure of assistant Kurt Rambis, a crackdown on player use of Twitter, and the ever-present interest in superstar Kobe Bryant.

And oh yeah, Jackson, who turned 64 last week, is heading into the final year of his contract with no discussion of an extension.

"When I suggested that set up a situation that would be a lame duck situation, they said that they hoped the duck wasn't lame," Jackson said Friday. "We'll see how the season goes."

The Lakers reconvene Tuesday for the first time since rolling down Figueroa Street during a raucous victory parade in June celebrating their 15th NBA championship and Jackson's record 10th title.

"Hopefully it'll be a camp in which nothing too exciting is done and we get through this thing," Jackson said. "You have a hell month in basketball and this is it."

Since winning the title, they added free-agent Artest, who signed a five-year deal worth about $33 million, switching places with Trevor Ariza, who left Los Angeles to take Artest's spot with the Houston Rockets.

"On paper we certainly are a better team," Jackson said, "but sometimes it's chemistry that counts between players and how they work together."

With that in mind, one of his goals is to make Artest's transition as seamless as possible.

"Ron is more of an offensive player than Trevor was," he said. "He'll be more of a focal point, but we hope that doesn't take away from the fact that he's the defensive player that we've wanted over the course of the last couple years to be a stopper, which Trevor was."

Since his signing in July, Artest has been a high-profile presence on the LA party circuit and on YouTube and Twitter.

While known for giving his players plenty of leeway to operate, Jackson said, "Ron makes himself high profile in a lot of cases. We'll have to keep his activity level monitored."

Attention on Odom has shot up since the announcement of his wedding scheduled for Sunday to reality show star Khloe Kardashian.

Jackson plans to attend the event he called "a surprising thing." The couple reportedly began dating only recently after meeting at a party thrown by Artest.

"We're going to give him a real good honeymoon. If his honeymoon lasts one night, he's going to be a lot of fun after that," Jackson said, smiling.

He didn't question the timing of Odom getting hitched practically on the eve of training camp.

"Once we step on that court on Tuesday, it becomes 250 days or more of 24-7 basically," he said. "There's not a whole lot of room in your life for timeout or a break here. If you're going to get married, do it before the season starts."

On a serious note, he said he supports Odom, adding, "I want everything in his world to go right for him."

But come Tuesday, Jackson plans to discuss with his team how to minimize the distractions and chaos that routinely follows the Lakers through the season.

"There's a certain amount of privacy that we have to demand from them about what our business is that doesn't become street business," he said.

And that involves Twitter.

"Without a doubt, there will be restrictions," Jackson said without specifying what those would be.

Jackson has resisted the attempts of girlfriend and Lakers executive Jeanie Buss to get him on Twitter. Buss is an avid tweeter.

"It is a little bit of a contested situation between the two of us as to its value and how much value it has in our lives," he said. "That's still up for grabs."

Jackson said he won't replace longtime assistant Rambis, who took over the head coaching job in Minnesota. Instead, Jackson will spend more time working with the Lakers' big men, while his three remaining assistants will divvy up defensive responsibilities.

If Jackson has to miss any games because of health issues, like last season, his replacement will be the assistant responsible for monitoring that night's particular opponent.

The Lakers are mulling starting a big lineup of Bryant, Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Odom, who regularly came off the bench last season.

Bynum returned from a torn MCL in his right knee just as the regular season was ending, giving the 7-footer barely any time to prepare for the championship run.

"He's talking about wearing two (knee) braces this year, making sure that nothing untoward happens during the course of the year," Jackson said. "He's talking about hopefully making the All-Star team and that's a good goal."

Earlier this week, Jackson and his pared down staff watched the Lakers' clinching Game 5 of the NBA finals, a 99-86 win over the Orlando Magic.

"It kind of ends last year and begins this year," he said. "We see that we organized the floor well, but we didn't run the floor well. We have a lot of distance to cover."