The entire Laker team took the first few weeks of the off-season relaxing and soaking in their Game 7 victory. A few players went to Johannesburg, South Africa to watch the 2010 World Cup, while the other stayed in the States to celebrate.
The players and coaches had a fun, tension-free beginning of the off season, but the front office had a lot of unfinished business to complete. The first task facing Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss was re-signing Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown, but also bringing back Coach Phil Jackson.
The team clearly wanted all of these individuals back on the squad, but the front office took some time in pursuing them.
Shannon Brown re-signed with the Lakers in mid-July, which pleased many Laker fans and players. Brown brought explosive and energetic play to the team, and gave the Lakers more youth on a fairly “old” team.
Around the same time, the Lakers finally re-signed captain Derek Fisher. Many people were surprised in the delay of the agreement, since Fisher meant so much to the team. There was also speculation that Fisher would sign with the Miami Heat, if the Lakers failed to re-sign him.
LeBron James even picked up Fisher from the airport, and brought him to their meeting. However, at the end of the day, Derek Fisher could not leave the Lakers or Kobe Bryant. Bryant and Fisher came in the league together and have developed a close bond with each other.
Derek Fisher expressed his desire to stay with the Lakers and Kobe on his website. “At the end of the day, there’s one person I could not turn away from. Kobe Bryant asked me to stay but supported whatever decision I made,” Derek later went on to say, “He and I have played together for 11 seasons, came into the league together as kids; he has been loyal to me even when others had doubts. We have won five championships together.”
The front office may have re-signed key players, but they also had to deal with a key person on the bench. Rumors and speculations had been surfacing all season long, about whether or not Phil Jackson would return.
After the Lakers won the championship, Phil Jackson had an opportunity to leave the league on top. Without a doubt the team wanted the Zen Master back on the bench, but the process was not that easy.
Kobe Bryant has played for Phil Jackson for many years and has won five NBA championships with him. Kobe Bryant called Jackson in the off season to tell his coach how much he wanted him back.
“It was just to let him know that I want him back.” Bryant told the OC Register. “It was important as he’s making his decision that he knows much I want him back, how much we all want him back – and how much I’ve learned from him.” The countless pleas and begs paid off, as coach Phil Jackson decided to return to the Lakers for another three-peat run.
Next: Off-Season Acquisitions