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Lakers speak to Phil Jackson about return

Lakers speak to Phil Jackson about return

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers spoke to 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson on Saturday about returning for a third stint on their bench.

The Lakers confirmed on their website that Jackson discussed the job with owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak. They'll meet again early next week.

Los Angeles fired coach Mike Brown on Friday after a 1-4 start to a season of enormous expectations. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff led the Lakers to a blowout win over Golden State later that night, and the Lakers said Bickerstaff will coach the club in a home game against Sacramento on Sunday night.

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard have voiced their interest in playing for Jackson, and the legendary coach's return to the 16-time champion franchise seems probable as long as Jackson decides he's up to another stint in the prestigious job with a team that won five titles and reached seven NBA finals in his 11 seasons on its bench.

``Knowing him the way I do, I think it's really just a matter of health, if he feels physically up to doing it,'' Bryant said Friday night. ``He's a perfectionist. We all know he's a perfectionist. If he feels like he can come in here and give what he demands from himself, then I think he would be interested.''

After several chants of ``We want Phil!'' broke out in the Staples Center crowd on Friday night, the Lakers had the day off Saturday.

Jackson walked away from the Lakers in 2011, eager to improve his health by avoiding the constant grind of NBA travel. The former Knicks forward spent nine seasons on the Chicago Bulls' bench, winning six titles with Michael Jordan before moving to the Lakers in 1999.

Jackson left the Lakers in 2004 after the club lost to Detroit in the NBA finals, but he returned for a second stint after Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblen led Los Angeles to a 34-48 record in his one-year absence. After a rough start to his second stint, the Lakers reached three NBA finals and won two titles after acquiring Pau Gasol.

They fell short of Jackson's fourth three-peat when they lost to eventual champion Dallas in the second round of the 2011 playoffs. Jackson followed through on his promise to leave the club, which didn't acknowledge his departure with a news conference or any ceremony.

``The one thing that's kind of always bothered me is that his last year, I wasn't able to give him my normal self because I was playing on one leg,'' said Bryant, who had knee problems throughout the season. ``That's always kind of eaten away at me, that the last year of his career, I wasn't able to give him everything I had.''

If Jackson isn't looking forward to travel, he could return at a good time. Los Angeles began a six-game homestand Friday night, and will host San Antonio on Tuesday night.

Bryant vocally backed Brown's work over the past two seasons, including his decision to install a new offense that didn't click immediately with Howard or Steve Nash. After reacting to Brown's firing with shock, the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history said he would welcome a reunion with the coach who created a nearly impossible act to follow in both Chicago and Los Angeles.

Bryant has stayed in contact with Jackson during the coach's retirement, even getting a couple of Jackson's famed book recommendations.

``A lot of it is Phil's fault,'' Bryant said of the struggles of the coach's successors. ``He teaches guys to be thinkers. He teaches us the little nuances, the details and the intricacies of the game that just a lot of people don't know. It's no fault of their own. When it comes to basketball, he's genius-level. It's tough for anybody to step in those shoes afterward from players that were raised underneath that tutelage.''

Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan also are thought to be candidates for the job if Jackson declines. Kupchak said the Lakers are likely to hire a veteran coach who isn't currently employed.

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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."

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Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Over the 2019 offseason, the Washington Redskins periodically released episodes to a new series called "Redskins 365". Here, viewers can get an all-access look into all the important moments leading up to the 2019-20 season. In episode 1 titled "The Future Starts Now" the Redskins begin their journey toward improvement following the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign.

The episode begins immediately following the disappointing end to Washington's season as players participated in locker cleanout day. A somewhat somber atmosphere, the likes of Shaun Dion Hamilton, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams reflect on the season and look ahead to 2019.

Following that, it's on to the additions and changes on the coaching staff. Head coach Jay Gruden gives his thoughts on new defensive staff hirings Ray Horton and Rob Ryan as well as Kevin O'Connell's jump to offensive coordinator. Ryan and O'Connell also explain their excitement for next season in their respective roles.

With the coaching staff puzzle becoming clear, the episode transitions to the NFL Combine. Gruden along with Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, President Bruce Allen and Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith take you through the Combine process. Discussions about the interview process and what the Redskins are looking for in players give insight into how evaluations are done. 

The Combine portion has a heavy focus on players Kyler Murray, D.K. Metcalf and Montez Sweat among others. Released on March 20, one can see and hear from Sweat before the idea of him becoming a Redskin came to fruition and listen to Metcalf's thoughts on Jay Gruden.

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Englehart also makes an appearance, discussing his viral moment with Ed Oliver at the combine and the fraternity-type bond conditioning coaches in the NFL share.

Washington's journey toward success in 2019 began the moment the clock ran out on the 2018 season. Episode 1 of "Redskins365" picks up right in that preliminary stage.

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