O.C. Register: Once or twice every day Tex Winter hops into Phil Jackson’s rental car for the two of them to go to work together. During practice Jackson will often sit next to his longtime mentor for them to evaluate Lakers training camp side by side. Then they’ll head back to the team hotel, together again.
From all he has seen and heard the past week, Winter knows Jackson is feeling extremely spry — even if Winter can’t be sure Jackson will sign a contract extension to coach the Lakers beyond this season.
“He feels a lot better,” Winter said. “He’s much more animated this year than he was last year. He really came into the season last year not feeling very well. He is enjoying it now. He seems back to his old self.”
Jackson, 62, is free from arthritic pain after two hip-replacement surgeries in a little more than a year. He is still carrying a cane as he recovers from the latest procedure, but he’ll frequently forget all about the cane when he’s on the court, actively demonstrating proper technique to his players.
Winter doesn’t believe Jackson necessarily needs to see these Lakers show championship promise for him to sign what would likely be a two-year, $20 million extension.
“To a great extent, it depends on his health,” Winter said.
Although Rudy Tomjanovich, Bill Sharman and Walt Hazzard have token “consultant” titles with the Lakers, Winter is the only consultant at training camp. He had high praise for the play so far of Maurice Evans, who is being converted from small forward to shooting guard, and young guards Javaris Crittenton and Jordan Farmar.