Archives For Buss Family

In the latest Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I talk with Tania Ganguli of the LA Times.

Tania talked to us about the LeBron James to the Lakers rumblings around the league and whether she thinks this is just smoke or if it’s a real possibility. Then she gave us insight into the Lakers belief in Brandon Ingram as a foundational player, gave us more background and context to the D’Angelo Russell trade, and then talked at length about her fantastic feature on Jeanie Buss and the Buss Family dynamic.

Later in the pod Tania also talked to us about her history as a sports journalist, some of the differences between working an NFL vs. an NBA beat, and other notes of the trade (which I found particularly interesting and great). I want to thank Tania for being so generous with her time and for coming on the show. It was a good conversation that we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click through to listen to the episode.

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Even though we at FB&G try to focus our attention on the “on-court” happenings with the Lakers, you’d have to live in a cave to not at least be aware of the off-court family drama which persists among the team’s owners. After Jeanie Buss relieved Jim Buss of his duties as VP of Basketball Operations and installed Magic Johnson as the top basketball decision maker, the fallout has been very real.

The inherent drama of these moves and resulting aftershocks is the stuff of tabloids and soap operas. If you would prefer to not even consider these things, I don’t blame you. All of it reeks, a continuation of the dysfunction and in-fighting which plagued the franchise in the immediate aftermath of Dr. Buss’ death through current day. That said, if these things do interest you, Ramon Shelburne of ESPN has a long and worthwhile story up on the behind the scenes activity which got Jim (and the front office) and Jeanie (along with Magic Johnson) to the point they are now.

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In a stunning move to shake up their front office, the Lakers announced Tuesday morning that they have cleaned house of their top two basketball decision makers and elevated Magic Johnson from “advisor” to Jeanie Buss to the President of Basketball Operations. From the team’s press release:

Los Angeles Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss announced today that the team has named Earvin “Magic” Johnson as President of Basketball Operations. In addition, General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately. Furthermore, Jim Buss will no longer hold his role as Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss said. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

While the move itself should not inspire surprise, the timing of it certainly should. The NBA Trade deadline is only two days away and the team just fired their GM and relieved the final say in basketball decisions. Just Sunday night there were reports that the Lakers were in conversations to acquire DeMarcus Cousins (before he was dealt to the Pelicans) and there have been ongoing rumors about the team being in active discussions about trading Lou Williams in advance of Thursday. Now the people who were on those calls and negotiating compensation are now no longer employed by the team! I am almost speechless.

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Just as he showed as a player during the Showtime Era, Magic Johnson is proving to be very comfortable in the spotlight after being brought on as an advisor to Jeanie Buss.

Since his hiring was announced only 12 days ago, Magic has made an appearance with the Lakers’ TV partner for an interview, he’s made on the record comments to USA today saying he wants to “call the shots”, he (or someone close to him) sourced comments to ESPN which implicated Mitch Kupchak, he’s gone on CBS radio, and today he did an interview with Hannah Storm on ESPN.

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Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss met with Hall of Famer and former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson on Tuesday night, sources with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.

The exact nature of the meeting was not immediately clear, but sources said Buss has been soliciting opinions on the direction the franchise should take moving forward, after three straight losing seasons and possibly a fourth, with the Lakers already having lost 31 games this season.

The above is from a piece from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne back in mid January. As Shelburne noted (and I have heard similar things), Jeanie Buss has been talking to folks about the direction of the Lakers and Magic, who is “like a brother” to her, is a natural sounding board for such discussions.

Well, it turns out, that discussion may have been more than just a friendly conversation and more like a precursor to what will now be a true working relationship. Because today it was announced that the Lakers have hired Magic to an advisory position. From the team’s press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers today announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson will return to the Lakers to assist Jeanie Buss in all areas of basketball and business as an advisor…

…Johnson’s duties will include, but not be limited to, advising ownership on all business and basketball matters, collaborating with coaches, evaluating and mentoring players, assessing future franchise needs, and helping ownership to determine the best path for growth and success. Johnson will spend time at Lakers offices in El Segundo and will report directly to Jeanie Buss.

That sound you hear is Jim Buss’ job security taking nose dive.

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Training camp is here and routines are settling in. Monday’s media day became Tuesday’s 1st practice which then transitioned to Wednesday’s first two-a-day session. On and on this will go into next week when the Lakers will open their preseason schedule against the Kings on October 4th. Basketball is back. It is fantastic.

With the team’s return, however, also comes the residual baggage from season’s past. There may not be a farewell tour to navigate or an old-school coach’s soundbites and strategies try to make sense of, but there are still issues to wade through. Namely, that timeline for contention put forth by VP of Basketball Ops/Co-Owner Jim Buss.

You remember that, right? That’s a dumb question, of course you remember.

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Over the last few years a vocal set of Lakers’ observers — be it fans or media — consistently called Kobe Bryant the elephant in the room. Kobe was holding the team back, they said. His contract, his dominant persona, his power and sway from two decades of successful NBA summit climbing giving him carte blanche over one of the marquee brands in all of sports. This was the popular narrative for many.

I’d argue, though, that the real elephant in the room was the Buss Family dynamic. The whispers of discord were always present, like the hum from the a/c unit on a hot summer day. After Dr. Jerry Buss passed away, his children were to lead the organization forward and, it seemed, they just couldn’t get on the same page. The hiring and firing of coaches was an especially touchy subject, one tied to personal relationships that fed into reported mistrust which only escalated pre-existing hard feelings.

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While the Lakers wait on their new head coach to finish his playoff run with his current team, there are many questions which still need answering. Will they keep their lottery pick? If they do, who will they draft? Will they even keep that player? What about the 32nd pick in the draft? What about free agency? And on and on we go. These questions are the symptoms of hope, something fans haven’t had much of while dealing with the dread of a 17 win season.

While the actions which come over the next few months will determine whether that hope is well founded, it’s the decision makers whose final calls on all the above which matter most. With that, it becomes quite important (and beneficial) to have insight into their thought process on where this team is, where it’s going, and how they plan to get it there. As it just so happens, then, we have lucked out. Jim Buss recently spoke with Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders and gave thoughts on the team’s young players, hiring Luke Walton, and more.

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