Archives For Buss Family

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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We’ve reached a point with the Lakers where when an executive speaks, we have to hold our breath for the inevitable backlash as each sentence is broken down, word by word. Tuesday morning, when tweets came across the timeline that Jeanie Buss would be speaking publicly on the state of the Lakers with Colin Cowherd, my immediate and visceral reaction was “great, more of this.” In following with recent seasons, her comments didn’t meet my already considerably lowered expectations.

The appearance leaves more questions than answers, following a trend the Lakers need to correct if the organization wants to earn back the fanbase’s confidence they’ve lost due to how these last few seasons have gone.

Here’s the full interview:

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Byron Scott is no longer the Lakers’ coach. While a vocal portion of fans rejoice loudly, right with them there is also a chorus of questions about next steps and whether those in charge are going to make a coaching decision which propels the team forward. The doubts this will happen are real and they exist for the exact reason there is even a choice to make now.

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I have a hard time reading the tea leaves when it comes to what Byron Scott’s future might entail. Last month, when a report surfaced that the Lakers were “torn” on whether Scott would return for a third season as Lakers’ head coach, I was not really surprised. I am sure Scott has backers in the front office (remember, these people hired him) and Scott is Lakers’ family due to his showtime connections.

When that last point is put into the context of the Lakers being a family business, it truly matters. There were whispers for a long time that Dr. Buss was quite fond of Scott and as a coach whose biggest influence is Pat Riley, that connection to the past is strong.

That said, when the aforementioned report surfaced, I also wrote a leak like this signified that Scott also has detractors in the front office. That there’s no reason for a leak like this to come out unless Scott being let go was truly a consideration. And that concerns which go beyond the team’s record and spill into how he’s handled the team’s young players might carry more weight than the circumstances he’s faced with injuries (his first season) and the Kobe retirement tour + incorporating a slew of young players (season two).

Why does this matter today? Well, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck floated an interesting theory this morning on Scott’s potential future with the organization which adds another variable to the equation:

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It is not new news that Jim Buss (and, by association, maybe Mitch Kupchak) has a self imposed deadline for returning the Lakers back into contention. That word — contention — has been defined as competing for a conference championship and/or an NBA championship, so one would assume a push into the 2nd round with either a win or a very competitive loss would be needed to qualify.

The actual timeline has been somewhat debated, but Jeanie Buss has gone on the record, again, to explain that the timeline is by the end of next season. She reiterated this just a few days ago and USA Today’s Sam Amick has the details:

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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.

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