Buss Family Kremlinology

Kurt —  November 23, 2009

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Jerry Buss had his annual early-season media sit down last night before the Lakers destroyed the Thunder and said… basically nothing new.

As it tends to be with the Buss family, it becomes less about what he said and more about what can be inferred from what he said. It’s the Buss family Kremlinology, but without all the fur hats and vodka (well, there probably is vodka). And so what follows are a few of his comments followed by some thoughts.

This year marked the first time that Jim Buss joined his father for the annual sit-down with Lakers beat reporters, perhaps symbolic of the ownership transition the franchise has undergone the past few years. Not only does Jeanie Buss run the business side of the organization, Jerry Buss also revealed that Jim has taken over “around 90 percent” of the day-to-day operations of the franchise.

It’s clear that the power is shifting, although since Jerry Buss still owns the team he is in on all the fun — read big — decisions. But as we knew the grooming is well underway, and maybe farther along than we thought. Someday, Jim will take over as the head man but Jeanie runs the businesses side and has pull as she orchestrated Phil Jackson’s return (something needed at the time not only on the court but to calm angry season ticket holders in the wake of the Shaq trade). There are other Buss children in other roles — running the D-Fenders — and some of that could change when the power fully vests in Jim.

So far, the transition of power seems to be going smoothly, possibly in part because Jerry is still around Hopefully the longer he stays in that role, the smoother things will go when he does pass the baton. That, as Lakers fans, is all we can hope for. A Buss family power struggle behind closed doors would severely harm this franchise (I’m a big believer that good ownership is the key to long-term winning). And if there is a power struggle, we fans would be about as helpless to change it as Russian peasants were to stop infighting in the Kremlin. You just have to hope for a benevolent ruler.

Although Buss admitted he’s not thrilled to have the league’s highest payroll this season, he described $91.3 million in player salary and $21.4 million luxury taxes as money well spent if it delivers a 16th title. … “If we could find a way to save some money and stay at the level of competition we’re at, obviously we’ll try to do that,” Buss said. “But I think in this particular case, all the dollars were well-spent.”

Not sure there is anything new here outside of the Buss pattern we have seen for decades — he will spend to win, but you need to convince him it was a smart move. And get a good deal. Hence the drawn out Odom negotiations and jumping at Artest when Ariza balked. The tea leaves long term here is that while this team is in a championship window, we can continue to expect them to retain top talent.

Buss said he and Jim have spoken about potential replacements for Jackson should he retire after this season, but said he remains optimistic the future Hall-of-Fame coach will return. “He likes to wait until he sees physically how he is at the end of the season,” Buss said. “I think he’s healthier than he was. He was on his motorcycle this summer. That’s always a good sign.”

Not much to read into here, it’s all pretty logical and prudent. Everyone hopes Jackson stays on, but predicting Jackson’s health and the wear and tear of all that travel on a man who had both hips replaced is foolish. In the eventuality he does leave, you need to have a backup plan at least thought out Of course, no discussion of what that plan would be came out of the Buss family mouths.

Among the most pressing issues facing the Lakers is the status of Bryant, who has yet to sign an extension worth up to $91 million that would keep him in purple and gold through 2013-14. Buss declined to comment specifically on the status of the extension out of respect for Bryant’s wishes to keep negotiations private, but he left no doubt the Lakers intend to keep their star well after his current contract expires next season. “We certainly hope so,” he said.

Well, Duh. Who do you think fills Staples Center?

“If he wants to represent Spain, I think he’s entitled to that,” Buss said. “It would be nice if there was more time in between [the European championships and the start of NBA camps] so that he wasn’t overworked . . . . But I think there’s room for all kinds of basketball internationally.”

I’m with Buss here. The Club vs. Country debate is a long and storied one. In this summer’s soccer World Cup some club will lose its highly paid star player for the next season due to injury. But I don’t think that means you can tell a healthy player he can’t go play internationally. For me, that extends beyond the Olympics to other major events That said, I’d still hope Gasol takes this summer off.

Kurt

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26 responses to Buss Family Kremlinology

  1. I always worry when ownership passes from a more or less self-made man to a son who has had everything handed down to him.

    Let’s hope he has enough time and not enough ego to listen to his dad and be not afraid to follow his footsteps (sons trying to one-up dad’s achievements are things that can really screw things up).

  2. hey Kurt, might want to revisit para 5, where you say “when he does pass” sounds like you mean when he dies, but if you at “the baton” at the end, then it’ll just sound like he’s handing the biz over, not passing to another place. ;)

  3. Chris H., good catch.

  4. Thought that’s what he meant ;)

    Don’t want Jim taking over before Jerry ‘passes.’

  5. hey Kurt, no problem, but i forgot to add my comment, so here it is -
    i read somewhere today that Dr Buss made some reference to the number of titles the Cetics have, and that we are looking at overtaking them, and that he wants to see this one all the way through.
    I thought about that, wow, that is going to be some match up eh? just think about this, we can win it this year, and we could win it for a couple years in a row, that is not far fetched.
    would that then put us in a tie for the total number of ‘ships?
    then the next year, if the Lakers and Celtics make it to the finals, what a series that would be!
    I could see it, the Lakers overtake the C’s, Dr. Buss and PJ retire, what’s left after that? go out on a winner I’d say, and that the top o’ the top.
    if we did do that, I think those numbers of ‘ships would also put Kobe over MJ.
    hey, a guy can dream, right?
    (funny thing is, it’s not that far fetched)

  6. I really do not worry about banner 16 for the Purple and Gold as much as the 18th for the Greens. We all know that after this year, the Celtics will go on a patch a team mode with the keys of the team handed over to Rondo and with KG and PP becoming has-been defacto leaders… Ray Allen given the choice to either sign for less or walk.

    My best guess is that Ray Allen gets Lamar Odom rate but with 1-2 seasons only, perhaps an unguaranteed 3rd season.

    The Lakers have a team… and we have a future. The Celtics? Not so. They have a good shot this year and its about the best chance they get for the next few years, even up to a decade and a half.

    So Jerry (since we are on 1st name basis) need not worry about “passing” the Celtics before his proverbial “passing”. We might be 2 away to tie but after the season, we will be 1 step closer to tie-ing. And if and when we do, next season is even easier from the standpoint of familiarity. I mean, we only have the PG situation we need to resolve…

  7. I know, this is completely off-topic, and I apologize for that. But this might be one of the best articles about Kobe Bryant that I have ever read, and I just had to share it.

    http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2009/11/21/discussing-the-art-of-a-beautiful-game-by-chris-ballard-part-i/

  8. Great line from Basketbawful:

    “Trevor Ariza: With Yao Ming and Knee-Mac still out of the lineup, the former role player is now The Man by default. Ariza has responded with career-highs in PPG (18.3), RPG (5.4), APG (3.7) and SPG (2.14). BUT…he’s shooting a career-worst 38.8 percent from the field, including only 36.1 percent for the month of November. In Houston’s 105-103 loss to the Hawks, Trevor was 7-for-21 from the field and 2-for-8 from downtown.

    It’s official: Trevor Ariza has become Ron Artest. Scary.”

  9. If only PJ had some of those Kobe genes where any injury is waved off… He’d probably be coaching a decade from now. >.>

    Also, If Buss is willing to spend, Will Bynum next year would be nice. >.>

  10. I think we are all being too quick to dismiss the cyborg technology that will allow Jerry Buss and Phil Jackson to continue owning/coaching this team for the next 3000 years/ 1800 Laker championships.

  11. not to mention kobe’s stash of youth potions which will keep him playing til 20009 right?

  12. Mimsy,

    That article was an eye-opener for me. I would recommend everyone take a look at it. I don’t think I had ever thought of Kobe Bryant in the way that was presented by Ballard. I am definitely going to pick up a copy of the book.

    As for the question of ownership I hope that the Buss family is able to remain the owners of the franchise as I feel that the next largest owners in the Lakers, the Anschutz Entertainment Group, would not be as committed as owners. I’m just not a fan of a franchise being owned by a company. The News Corp. experience with the Dodgers pretty much has me opposed to any corporation owning a sports franchise.

  13. I wish I had read that article sooner (I read it just before commenting on the last post), but my annual indulgence of overseas-books just expired last week when I ordered Sports Illustrated’s Photo book.

    If it’s anything like :07 seconds or less, or Mad Game, I’d buy it, but if it’s more along the lines of The Gold Standard or the Last Journey, I’m happy that I didn’t…

  14. I read the chapter excerpt on Kobe from the book on another site and it was actually kind of disappointing. But not because it wasn’t great, only because I had read it already in a SI.com article a while back. It’s almost word for word the same thing, though I think there was a bit at the end for recent events.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/chris_ballard/05/27/kobe0602/index.html

  15. As to Buss’ comments, not a whole lot to say, other than the fact I’m sure there are plenty of Laker fans looking at Luke and Sasha’s that would disagree with the notion all the money was well spent. I know I’d rather have Ariza than both these guys anyway =(

  16. Wow, since Kurt posted on Artest a week or two back, the +/- situation for the lakers has changed.

    http://www.82games.com/0910/0910LAL.HTM

    Artest is close to where he was, but Kobe now has a Net +31 points per 100 possessions.

  17. Jumping along off-topic :)

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=aw-kobesweetchuck061709&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

    This is something I missed, but dang it’s good stuff :)

  18. Harold- that is a great article. Especially because of all the hype the original Battier article got. The 2 games they’ve played this year, Battier hasn’t played Kobe that well- even when Houston beat us, he didn’t do much to help.

  19. This is just great, one article after another article after another of really good stuff folks… I am enjoying the off-topic ride tonight.

  20. Also a bit off-topic, but we should get a google wave for the next game — Much better than just posting comments here.

  21. Kurt, just an idea… if your sked permits, why not post the game preview at midnight of gamenight?.. That way I can be the 1st poster in all the posts LOL.

  22. Atomsk121 For a game after Thanksgiving, we are going to do a live chat on this site. Not sure, but it seems about time. Not sure about Google Wave yet.

  23. @warren +1

  24. New post up. And sorry Warren, not a preview.

  25. I have no idea what I was thinking — In all honesty I got wave a couple hours before that post and was all excited about it. >.>
    I realize wave isn’t practical for now — Not enough people have it.

    The new shiny toy made me dumb. :(