No Michael. No Shaq. No cap space. No problem?

We're about to find out just how good a coach Phil Jackson really is.

Jackson returning to the Los Angeles Lakers and reuniting with Kobe Bryant Tuesday makes the Western Conference even stronger. But two teams that missed the playoffs this year — Minnesota and Golden State — are better than the Lakers as currently constituted.

Put away the talk of Jackson winning his 10th NBA title anytime soon — even if he gets Kobe to sing “Cumbaya'' with burning incense before every game. This is about baby steps — bringing fans back to Staples Center, winning more games than the Clippers and playing past April.

If more than that happens in the next two years, the Zen Master will have done his most impressive work since convincing Jordan to pass the ball.


Arizona Cardinals guard Rolando Cantu will join Denver Nuggets forward Eduardo Najera and LPGA golfer Lorena Ochoa on Friday for breakfast with Mexican president Vicente Fox.

Among possible discussion topics: Which will happen first, the Nuggets winning an NBA title, Ochoa ending Annika Sorenstam's run of major titles or Cantu getting off the practice squad in time to play for the Cardinals in Mexico City on Oct. 2?


Imagine Brandon Webb watching those four Arizona home runs against the White Sox Monday — when one would have made him a winner Sunday against the Royals.

But if the middle of the Arizona lineup somehow gets hot at the same time — Monday was a good start — perhaps it can carry the woeful bullpen until some injured arms (Brandon Lyon, Oscar Villarreal) can return.


Kudos to the Red Sox for naming the left-field foul pole in Fenway Park after Carlton Fisk — decades after the right-field pole became the property of Johnny Pesky.

Want to get creative? Name the center-field foul pole after Bill “Spaceman'' Lee.


• After watching him take apart Ray Allen and Shawn Marion, is anyone surprised to see the Spurs' Bruce Bowen making Rip Hamilton work for every shot and point in the NBA Finals? Hamilton broke out for 24 points in a Game 3 win but had to run a half-marathon to do it. That expended energy will hurt as the series moves on.

• Leave it to the Lakers to upstage the Spurs and Pistons and bring back Jackson this week. Of course, the league may have asked Los Angeles to call the press conference to take some of the focus off a lousy series.

• ESPN's Peter Gammons has been talking up a deal that would send Toronto relievers Miguel Batista and Scott Schoeneweis to Arizona for top D-Backs prospect Carlos Quentin and perhaps Jose Valverde.

• Three whole days and no talk of a Mike Tyson comeback. Personally, I'm impressed.

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