Lakers likely to face changes in offseason

Saturday, May 17, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson is feeling good about his own health, as well as the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I think I would have been a little more defeatist at another time," Jackson said following the Lakers' 110-82 loss to the Spurs that ended their three-year run as NBA champions. "I have to feel better about my own personal health and the direction I'm going. We've had a great run."

Jackson's self-described most difficult season as a coach ended Thursday night -- five days after he underwent an angioplasty to unblock an artery to his heart.

Jackson is perhaps the most successful coach in NBA history, having won a record 162 postseason games and coached nine championship teams in 13 years. His nine titles tie him with former Boston coach Red Auerbach for the most ever.

The 57-year-old Jackson said he intends to return next year and fulfill the final year of the five-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Lakers in June 1999.

He'll probably be working with several new players.

"I would suggest that next year there will be more changes than in years past," general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We'll do everything we can to upgrade this team.

"I think we have to address our frontcourt, whether it's a backup center or a power forward."

Kupchak said the Lakers are at least $23 million over the salary cap but plan to use their $4.5 million midlevel exception for a free agent.

Pistons win, reach finals of Eastern Conference

PHILADELPHIA -- Chauncey Billups returned just in time to put the Detroit Pistons into the Eastern Conference finals.

Billups, who missed Games 2, 3 and 5 with an ankle injury, scored nine of his 28 points in overtime to lead the Pistons to a series-ending 93-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

The Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1991.

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