ESPN: Of the five teams out there with no coach under contract next season — Atlanta, Memphis, New Jersey and New Orleans are the others — you’d still rank the Lakers at No. 5 on that list in terms of coaching instability.

Phil Jackson recently insisted to that he expects to be back in 2010-11, despite any recent rumblings to the contrary, echoing suggestions Lakers owner Jerry Buss made recently to contributor Steve Springer that any panic is premature because Phil wouldn’t seriously entertain discussions about a contract extension until after the season anyway.

However …

It’s milder drama compared to what the Lakers have grown accustomed to in the Kobe Bryant era, but the uneasiness spreading across Lakerland about Jackson’s future is real.

Buss is said to be adamant that Jackson takes a pay cut from his $12 million annual salary in this economy and has always been a reluctant fan of Phil’s triangle offense because of his Showtime roots. Jackson, meanwhile, has insisted that he doesn’t foresee health issues preventing him from coaching next season at age 64 … but he’s also dropped a few hints about walking away if L.A. fails to repeat as champions or if a roster that features five big names (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest) and not much dependable behind them isn’t refreshed in the offseason.