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NBA Cavs latest to enter Phil Jackson derby



Published: Sat, April 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A team spokesman said the team talked to Jackson on Thursday.

COMBINED DISPATCHES

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers have entered the Phil Jackson Coaching Sweepstakes.

The club confirmed late Friday night that it has had preliminary talks with Jackson about its head coaching vacancy.

"We've had contact with Phil Jackson and are exploring all highly successful head coaches who are in a position to speak with us," Cavaliers spokesman Tad Carper said.

Carper said the team had a phone conversation with Jackson on Thursday. He was not aware if any other talks are planned.

The Cavaliers, who missed the NBA playoffs following a late-season collapse, joined the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers in pursuit of Jackson, who won nine NBA titles as coach of the Chicago Bulls and Lakers.

While Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has said he wants to hire a general manager first to hire Cleveland's next coach, that plan could change if the club has a realistic chance of getting the 59-year-old Jackson.

But to do so, the Cavaliers will have to outbid New York and Los Angeles.

Other suitors

Earlier this week, Jackson met with Knicks president Isiah Thomas. He also reportedly had a meeting in Chicago with Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

New York and Los Angeles would appear to be more attractive markets than Cleveland. But the lure of coaching All-Star LeBron James would seem to make the Cavaliers enticing to Jackson, who had Michael Jordan in Chicago and later Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in Los Angeles.

If the Cavaliers can't get Jackson, the next most likely candidate would be Cleveland native Flip Saunders, who was fired earlier this season in Minnesota.

McMillan in the mix

Meanwhile, Cavaliers All-Star LeBron James wants to play for Nate McMillan next season in Cleveland.

McMillan is coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, who expressed a desire two weeks ago to re-sign him. However, McMillan's agent, Lonnie Cooper, told the team that they want to assess the situation after the playoffs and possibly begin negotiations at that point.

With James pushing for McMillan and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert reportedly willing to pay as much as $10 million a year, the cash-strapped Sonics might be hard-pressed to retain their coach.

Sonics CEO Wally Walker said the team's financial woes would have no impact on its contract talks with McMillan, but it's unlikely that the Sonics, who reported losses of $17 million this season, could win a bidding war with Cleveland.

McMillan, 40, is in the final year of a four-year, $10.8 million deal. He would likely begin contract talks at $4 million a year, but with Cleveland and New York in the mix, his price could soar as high as $6 million.

Leaving Seattle, where he has spent his entire NBA career, would be difficult, but McMillan could surround himself with familiar faces in Cleveland.

He played three seasons with Cavs guard Eric Snow, and in the past 2 1/2 years McMillan has developed a close relationship with Ray Allen, who, as a free agent after the season, will attract interest from Cleveland.

McMillan declined to comment on his job status.

Lewis signed a seven-year, incentive-laden deal in 2002 that guaranteed him $65 million, but he has the option of voiding the final two years and becoming a free agent after the 2006-07 season.




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