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Health tests to determine if Lakers' Jackson returns

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Phil Jackson thinks he is just about ready to walk away from his unparalleled NBA coaching career. The Los Angeles Lakers are all hoping he will change his mind in the next week.

The 11-time NBA champion coach said Wednesday he is leaning toward retirement. After a full season of speculation on his health and future, Jackson will wait for the results of another battery of medical tests before informing Lakers owner Jerry Buss of his final decision late next week.

Jackson, 64, is the most successful coach in league history by almost any measure, with a .705 regular-season winning percentage, a record 225 postseason victories and two more titles than Boston's Red Auerbach. His Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last week to claim their second straight title, and Jackson sounds increasingly interested in going out on top.

"Some of it's about health," Jackson said. "Some of it is just the way I feel right now. I've had vacillating feelings about it. It's hard not to feel like coming back when you . . . have an opportunity to coach a team that's this good, but it's what I feel like right now."

Jackson didn't attend the Lakers' victory parade on Monday, instead undergoing tests on a body with two replaced hips, a sore knee requiring a brace under his suit during the season, and a previous heart problem. These accumulated woes and the NBA's onerous travel schedule have prompted retirement thoughts for years.

"We all want him back," Kobe Bryant said yesterday. "He knows that. I've stressed it to him over and over. . . . I don't even want to think about that right now. It's killing my buzz."

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