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Phil Jackson continues to have plenty of influence throughout the Lakers organization. Especially when it comes to the team's head coaching search. Numerous reports have stated that Jackson is a key member of the Lakers "brain trust" reviewing their head coaching options.

One major faucet of the Lakers interview process appears to be asking candidates how they would utilize Russell Westbrook alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

This news comes on the heels of the Lakers front office reportedly blaming Frank Vogel for Westbrook's lack of effectiveness throughout the season and that if Jackson had his druthers, the Lakers would keep Westbrook on the roster.

A comparison Jackson has used in interviews dates back to his first run at the helm of the Lakers according to The Athletic's Sam Amick.

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For Jackson’s part, sources say he has cited the Gary Payton dilemma in the 2003-04 Lakers season as a way of illustrating a coach’s need to make the best of roster decisions that weren’t his preference. In essence, deal with the hand you’re dealt rather than complain about it.

Amick provided added context to the Westbrook-Payton comparison.

"When the Lakers’ late owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, insisted on adding Payton in the summer of 2003, that meant Jackson had to convince Derek Fisher to come off the bench. And considering those Lakers had won titles in three of the previous four seasons with Fisher starting, this wasn’t a welcome situation for Jackson to have to handle...the comparison, it seems, was made to make the point that the coach (and his staff) should somehow find a way to find the Westbrook solution."

It's becoming more and more apparent that Westbrook could start next season on the Lakers roster, especially if the team is reticent to utilize their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks in order to ship Russ elsewhere.

Hence why the next head coach might have to be able to crack the Westbrook code.