Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  February 20, 2013

He was a child of the depression, an old school business player and he struck it rich the way the old players did, swinging hard and swinging all night. Jerry Buss earned his doctorate in physical chemistry and made a fortune in real estate which he turned into a bigger fortune in sports. He wasn’t as diversified as some of today’s owners but he lived a lot larger and won larger too – ten NBA titles and that won’t happen again. He liked to be called Dr. Buss, hung out at the Playboy mansion and drove a purple Rolls. He talked softly, had an easy smile and wasn’t shy about dropping the hammer when he had to. And now he’s gone.

The passing of a giant overshadowed most of the other current basketball news, especially for Lakers fans. It reminded us of the frailty of life but in truth we’re reminded every day and sports is no exception – there’s a reason you see so many gimpy jocks and a reason their shelf lives are so short. It’s a tradeoff – they blow out their joints and stress their organs and leave it all on the floor, and some go even harder when they truly believe, when there’s a goal in sight, a unified mission, a team structure, a culture of winning. Or in the case of Dwight Howard, a culture of fun.

Tonight the Lakers face another team with injuries and old stories, the Boston Celtics. There’s a sizable gap between their respective records this season – Boston has faced adversity with their customary zeal and bunker mentality and will play after losing in Denver last night. The Lakers meanwhile have been heading down a wrongheaded path since Phil Jackson limped off into the not-quite-sunset. Is it Jim Buss’s fault? Not entirely. There were some lean years during Jerry Buss’s prime so let’s not forget that. Still, being a Laker under the good doctor’s stewardship held an undeniable panache.

Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo, on Kobe Bryant and being a Laker for life.

Lee Jenkins from SI puts the empire Jerry Buss built into a mom-and-pop store perspective.

Jack McCallum from SI sits down to breakfast with Phil Jackson.

Dave McMenamin at ESPN reports that Pau Gasol is on track for his return. Dave also writes about Dr. Buss and there’s some great Magic audio embedded in the piece.

Jeff Miller at the OC Register looks at how an uncertain season just became more so.

Kevin Ding & Janis Carr at the OC Register relay Mitch Kupchak’s assertion that there won’t be a major deal before the deadline.

Regardless of assurances, the deadline’s nearly here. Drew Garrison with Silver Screen and Roll looks at some of the possible Dwight Howard scenarios.

The Kamenetzky Bros are reviving their Land O’Lakers shingle, welcome news indeed. Also follow their posts on Sulia, such as this one by BK about Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss.

Emile Avanessian at Hardwood Hype on Pai-Gow poker. Read this post.

Dan Devine for Ball Don’t Lie presents yesterday’s viral photo of the day, plus Andrew Bynum’s belief that he’ll play for the 76ers this season.

***

The All-Star game was this past Sunday. There was just six minutes left when Kobe Bryant asked to take LeBron James one-on-one. He proceeded to do just that – holding James to a single point with two blocks, a steal and some serious physicality. This came 16 years after Bryant won the All-Star slam dunk contest. After the game, twitter blew up as stat-heads tried reducing a legend to a glimmer of entitled arrogance. Some of those complaining the loudest weren’t actually old enough to remember the 1997 dunk contest.

Jerry Buss loved sports and he loved his rum and coke, the quintessential cocktail for the eternal teen. The man was no saint but he ran a first-class operation and took care of his family and a lot of other families as well. There’s been so many stories told about Magic and Kobe and other Laker greats. I sometimes think about the players he helped who weren’t Laker stars and perhaps were no longer stars at all.

It was August of 2011. Phil Jackson stood on stage at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and waited patiently for Dennis Rodman to make his way down the aisle. Rodman was in an emotional frame of mind and he talked about the father figures in his life. He thanked Jeanie Buss for letting him share her dad. Rodman didn’t last but 23 games with the Lakers during the 1998-99 season and when it was time to cut him loose, Jerry Buss understood. He didn’t let friendship interfere with team business and he didn’t let team business take away from friendship. And for those who were simply fans of the game, he brought quality basketball and more than a few parades. The team didn’t deliver the last couple of years but he kept rolling the dice anyway and for that and so much more, we thank him. Up next, the future.

Dave Murphy

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18 responses to Wednesday Storylines

  1. dave m: we feel you. jerry buss was all that and a bag of chips. poker that is.

    the season starts today? in some way it does. celtics no less.

    issues? we got a few but listen, isn’t that what it’s all about. no matter our particular clown favorites, growing up, bozo was the personal favorite for me. he had his own show, was always entertaining and always had a positive message at the end of each show. need to point dwight in that direction; not the weary willie we’ve been seeing lately.

    as always, thx for sharing dave m.

    Go Lakers

  2. David Murphy: “The Lakers meanwhile have been heading down a wrongheaded path since Phil Jackson limped off into the not-quite-sunset. Is it Jim Buss’s fault? Not entirely” Well – I don’t think there is any part of that statement that can be argued with. I will point out that another way to say “not entirely” is “partially”.

    Doyle Brunson’s tweet from Monday: Dr Buss lost 50K in a poker game. Me: Sorry u lost so much. Him:”it’s ok, I could do it every day for 100 years and still be rich”.#RIPBuss.

    Ownership: Be expecting some articles soon about the Laker ownership situation. This is not as straight forward as everyone thinks. We have the AEG portion in limbo, the yet to be defined terms of the trust, sibling rivalry, huge estate taxes, and mounting losses on the floor. Should make for interesting meetings of the Trustees.

  3. david h: Love it. What is our record in season openers this year? We have had like 10 of them : )

  4. Dwight has this franchise hostage Kupchak is sucking up to him hard. Never heard him gloat that much about any player ever. Nothing more he can do when he wants him to be the franchise player but Dwight hasn’t proven anything as a Laker yet.

  5. http://www.foxsportswest.com/02/19/13/Jackson-Lakers-eliminated-Dwights-assets/msn_landing.html?blockID=866487&feedID=3657

    I think Phil overestimates Howard’s ability. Howard does get some post play and too often he can only get off a jump hook that doesn’t go in or he turns the ball over. Howard might not have confidence in his teammates and coach, but they don’t have confidence in him. He is a liability on the offensive end. His poor post play goes beyond his inuries, he has never really been a dominant offensive force. And what good does it do to kick out to wide open shooters on this team? Besides Steve Nash and Kobe, who do you really have that can consistently knock down open shots? Meeks? Artest? Blake? I think none of them are reliable. They are not the equivalent of Rick Fox, Robert Horry, and Brian Shaw. Now while none of those guys were lights out shooters, they were still more reliable than the guys we have now.

  6. Anybody watching ESPN first take right now? Stephen A. Smith and Skip (for once) is on fire saying Dwight needs to be traded.

    I agree!

  7. Robert, the ownership situation is going to be a phenomenal opportunity for somebody. Hopefully everybody learned from the O’Malley situation and we don’t find ourselves in 20 years of ownership error.

    I am far from knowledgable about this horse race but it looks to me like Jeanie and Phil get along with a certain nominal owner of the Dodgers better then Jim does. The ownership group that Magic is the face for in Chavez Revine could well be in position to have important stakes in the two most iconic Los Angeles sports franchises. If Kobe is serious about this being his last contract, his brand might also be used by that group or another to help lend credibility. Again, I don’t know the Buss family but history has shown that dynasties go through some upheaval during transitions and it’ll be interesting if the family bands together once and for all, or who might be working to back each of Jim and Jeanie.

  8. I’m sure Mitch said there will be no deal and that may even be true, but this is the NBA’s ulimate stealth ninja we’re talking about here. The front office may not be perfect, but Ninja Mitch has earned my trust.

  9. robert: seems like at least 10 do overs but who’s counting right?

    now if only the buss family; sans patriarch and midas man, jerry buss would sell off 51% of their 61% ownership in the lakers to a group of experienced/knowledgeable/nba basketball/former laker player(s) whose association w/business people with deep pockets will go a long way in winning back the hearts and minds of laker following. thinking out loud: would still maintain a 10% investment interest in a billiion dollar enterprise and would ensure a strong and vibrant product for future generations to come.

    just a thought.

    Go Lakers

  10. Best case scenario going forward for the Buss family is for Jim to take a back seat in the organization and let Phil Jackson and Jeanie restructure the Lakers. That’s quite easy for me to say on the outside. These are dire times and the Buss’ need to be solidified before they are reduced to minor roles and lose the legacy their father built.

    Here’s to hoping that the Lakers remain with the Buss/Jackson family as majority owners.

    Dwight needs to take full advantage of his time with the Lakers whether he likes the coaches, Kobe, or the organization. There are no guarantees for anyone and particularly a player with a bad back and shoulder. He need look no further than Andrew Bynum whom squandered his time with the Lakers to only find himself unable to get back on the floor.

  11. If dwight is the future i wont be watching or going to games for a while.

    Ill get updates from this forum.

    I can no longer stand to watch dwight pout..i stomached bynums pouting..but at least he tried to play hard.

    I would rather watch sacre get outplayed than watch this muscle bound clown.

  12. I know how a bad back can effect a body’s ability to react. It’s difficult to bend over (ie reach for a bounce pass). It’s hard to reach away from your body with your hands up (ie, rebound outside your zone), it’s difficult to move your feet (ie, play proper defense). It’s difficult to move quickly (ie, show effort, jump and create contact) So, judging from Dwight’s body of work in Orlando, I still give him the benefit of the doubt that he needs to get healthy before judging his willingness to work. That said, there are better ways to deal with the media then Dwight has chosen. His presence on the court also has it’s difficulties. We all expected Dwight to soon be the guy who erased all mistakes on the defensive end and without that, he is disappointing.

    I don’t see any reason for any of the members of the Buss Trust to give up ownership stake. I think I once read that their trust is designed so that consensus must be made before any of them sell. What can happen is for one member of the trust to be involved in buying AIG’s ownership stake and then perhaps becoming the dominant partner. If that were to happen, I imagine Jeanie would be the one who attracts all those known assents such as Magic, Phil, the Dodgers ownership group etc… Then again, I don’t know who Jim runs with. Like I said, it will be interesting and I just hope it turns out good for the franchise.

  13. Off topic, but relevant given the calendar… Playing Boston at home around the trade deadline takes me back to one of the greatest Laker front office moves in team history: Mychal Thompson for Frank Brickowski, Pétur Gudmundsson and a late first-round draft choice.

    Hard to believe it’s been 26 years – that was a great Sunday game on CBS, the Lakers coming back from 17 points down to topple the Celtics and set the tone that Bird’s era had ended.

    The Lakers won the next two NBA titles, then made the Finals in two of the three seasons immediately after that. That was a helluva deal. If only there were something like that in the cards again this week.

  14. God bless Phil:

    SI: When you look at the Lakers now, considering that they’ve had a lot of personnel changes and injuries, what do you see?

    Jackson: They just don’t put the ball in the post. They’ll use a screen-roll to get the guy in the post. But there’s no consistent plan to do it. Yes, Kobe will go in there. But Dwight [Howard] just doesn’t get any touches. They’ve basically eliminated his assets.
    ***
    SI: How about when Pau Gasol comes back? There seemed to be some problems when they were out there together.

    Jackson: Well, what is the problem? We won two championships that way [with two big men]. Pau is one of the best big men in the game. I mean, Pau Gasol is going to be in the Hall of Fame.

  15. I think Kupchak made mistake to say that Howard is our future, the guy did not sign anything yet. In the All-Star game, Popovich was mad at Howard when he draw a play and Howard did not pay attention to it, is that our future player like that ? if Howard demands more changing from coach to players, can Lakers do it ?

  16. DJ – i respectfully disagree. Kuptchak said the only thing he could say. If he comes out and say that DHoward must be moved, then the Lakers screw any leverage they still may have with other teams and guaranteed themselves that Howard walks away from the franchise at the end of the year – and that Howard probably sits out more than a few games “nursing” his injuries, thus truly tanking the season for the Lakers.

    The only thing Kuptchak could say is what he said.

    From a PR point of view, this puts all of the pressure on Dwight to *find* excuses why the most popular and storied basketball franchise on the planet is not good enough for him. Dwight may chose to walk away from the Lakers at the end of the year, but with this move Mitch has guaranteed that if Howard were to do so, not only will he leave about $30m on the table of guaranteed money, but he will also further tarnish his marketability. At the end of the day, Dwight has already done a lot of damage to his brand and the only way he can overcome such damage is by winning rings. Don’t believe me? Just look at the impact of winning had on Kobe’s and Lebron’s respective reputations after some damaging career events (Colorado and “The Decision” respectively).

    From a current season point of view, Mitch is letting Dwight know that he is not going anywhere. If Dwight is truly committed to leaving the Lakers at the end of the season, then he has no choice but to tough it out and make the best of what remains for the rest of the season so that he does not give the impression that his better days (and paychecks) are far behind him. Like it or not, this is a contract year for him and he has a lot riding on his performance – specially if he leaves the team. However, as a side note, in the history of the Laker organization, I can’t remember one starting-caliber player that has left the Lakers for another organization via free agency and done better in terms of winning rings had he stayed put (even Shaq – had he stayed and worked things out with Kobe, we all know hewould have at least 3 more rings by now). Not a single one.

  17. @MannyP – That’s a really smart statement and I tend to agree. I’ll say this though, I’m going to be real bummed if Dwight resigns and we end up with an unhappy (and/or unhealthy) superstar and an albatross contract. Let’s hope that’s not the case – that he regains his form and finds that this really is the best place to be, and the place to play his best.