Jeanie Buss Rumors
The NBA informed the Lakers that the tweets were in violation of the July moratorium, the period between when teams begin negotiating with free agents and they can begin signing them. During that time, only the team’s “designated negotiator” — in the Lakers case, Kupchak — is permitted to say whether the Lakers are in discussions with a player. A tweet from team president Jeanie Buss encouraging fans to reweet the “#LAtoLA” hashtag was also removed.
“I don’t think that I’m being stubborn when I say I expect the best for the Lakers,” Buss told USA TODAY Sports. “That was a bar that my Dad set, and certainly there was always a feeling around the house that the Lakers don’t miss the playoffs. And the idea that we missed the playoffs two years in a row was different territory, and it was not comfortable for me. I couldn’t get a feel for where we were going. We were turning coaches over – a new coach every 18 months. That doesn’t make you feel comfortable in terms of a direction if the direction keeps changing all the time. And that’s the kind of stuff where I didn’t see how that was going to help us get back to the bar that my Dad set. And so I think now, it seems that there might have been…” She pauses. “It’s not a purging, but a reset of a different generation,” she continued. “And now the table has cleared, and you’re going to start to see exactly what the future of Lakers basketball is going to be, because our front office – (her brother and vice president of basketball operations) Jim Buss, (general manager) Mitch Kupchak – has all the things that they need to put their vision out on the floor.”
The Lakers’ rebuilding process may appear uncertain. But clarity emerged on another front. The Lakers and KSPN-710AM reached an agreement that will extend their radio play-by-play partnership for two additional seasons up through 2021-22. John Ireland will continue as the Lakers’ radio play-by-play announced, while Mychal Thompson will remain as the color analyst. Lakers president and part owner Jeanie Buss made the announcement on Tuesday as a guest on KSPN-710AM. “ESPN and the ESPN brand are synonymous with excellence, and we’re proud to be affiliated with them,” Lakers Senior Vice President of Business Operations/COO Tim Harris said in a statement. “The management and employees are consummate professionals and people we enjoy working with, and we’re very pleased to extend our partnership with them.”
Howard Beck: . @Jeanie Buss on legalized sports betting: “I look at it as fan engagement. … This gives them another way to connect with their…team.”
Knowing this, have you asked your brother to be more accessible? She takes a deep breath before I’ve finished the question. “He has to make that determination for himself,” she says, her fists now balled on top of each other, gently tapping the table in front of her. “Whatever he’s comfortable with.”
Jim Buss complicated things when he recently announced that he will step down from basketball operations “if this doesn’t work in three to four years, if we’re not back on the top — and the definition of top means contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship — then I will step down because that means I have failed.” I ask Jeanie Buss — the boss — if she would fire her brother if he doesn’t keep his word and resign. “I think my brother would step down. I don’t think he’d ever want to be … ” she trails off. “He is very sincere in his efforts. I don’t think he has doubts that he’ll be able to get everything to where we need it to be, and there will be no reason to make any changes.” For now, she is bound to her father’s plan. “Jeanie is doing what her dad wanted done. She wants to do it the way he saw it,” says Linda Rambis. “But I don’t think she is going to be afraid to move in another direction if we’re not successful.”
Lamar Odom was another favorite, another member of the family. Buss and Phil Jackson attended his September 2009 wedding to reality-television star Khloe Kardashian. Odom, a two-time NBA champion with the Lakers and a former Sixth Man of the Year, was heartbroken following his December 2011 trade to the Dallas Mavericks. He soon flamed out of the league. Rumors of drug abuse have since shadowed Odom. “I’m worried about him,” Buss tells me. “I’ve reached out to him. I don’t know how to find him now. He knows where to find us, though. He knows that I’m always there for him — now, 10 years from now. He knows I’ve always been in his corner.”
Contrary to reports, Jeanie Buss says the money from the Time Warner deal is set, guaranteed regardless of ratings. The stakes, and consequences, however, are still high. “The team is obviously not doing as well this year — injuries and whatnot. Knock on wood, so far the effect [on business] hasn’t been horrible,” says Lakers COO/senior VP of business operations Tim Harris. “You look at the key indicators: OK, how are the ratings? The ratings are a little down.12 They are down relative to the Lakers, but they are still strong relative to an NBA team. Sponsorship interest is up. That’s good. The big indicator is tickets, and so far we are holding our own. Yeah, there are some soft nights every now and again, but by and large the interest is maintained. Now, if the team stays exactly where they are now, and you and I are having this conversation in another year, am I gonna say the same thing? I don’t know.”
As news of McDonnell’s passing began to circulate on Friday, the Lakers issued a statement, with key members of the organization expressing the reasons he will be missed. Jeanie Buss: “For more than 35 years, Joe has been a regular at Lakers games and press events. Known for his quick wit and strong opinions, Joe’s love of and support of the Lakers has always been appreciated. Over all these years, our players, coaches, and staff have enjoyed working with and knowing Joe. He will be sorely missed.” Mitch Kupchak: “Although Joe was opinionated and brutally honest in his coverage, I always felt he was knowledgeable and fair. He loved covering sports in our beloved city, and had a presence at every major sporting event. As both a player and executive, I enjoyed working with Joe since I arrived in town in 1981. I will miss seeing him at our games, practices, and press conferences.
Before he goes, Bryant hopes to see the Lakers transition to the player who will lead the franchise back to a championship. “I’d rather much rather hand the keys over to somebody that can take this organization right from the jump,” Bryant said. “But if not, even when I retire, that’s one of the things that I’ll be hell-bent on with [owners] Jeanie [Buss] and Jimmy [Buss], to make sure this franchise gets back.”
With Bryant set to return for the 2015-16 season in what could mark his last year, Buss said the Lakers are “talking about a bunch of different things” to honor Bryant in his 20th season with the Lakers at home games. Buss promised “we will make it special.”
Those images contrast to the Lakers’ presently dire state. The Lakers (16-44) enter Friday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies (43-17) at FedEx Forum a month away from missing the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive year and only the seventh time in franchise history. “I’ve been assured by our basketball operations that the team will be back in contention soon. If we are not meeting those goals, then changes have to occur,” Buss said in a recent interview with Los Angeles News Group in her office at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I have no reason not to believe them when they tell me that’s what they can deliver. I don’t see what would be holding them back.”
Isola wasn’t convinced it would get better soon, but he predicted a captivating development — Jackson vs. his fiancée, Jeanie Buss, the president of the Lakers, who are projected to have about $24 million to spend on free agents in July and perhaps even more the following year when Kobe Bryant comes off their books. “The next few summers it’s really going to be Phil and Jeanie going head-to-head to get players on some level,” Isola said. “I think Phil would probably admit that the Lakers have an advantage because there is more history there, they have won more titles and it is L.A. I think that he is probably going up against his girlfriend, realizing that she has a bit of an advantage.”
Last April, Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss told The Times he would step down if the franchise isn’t contending within three years. On Tuesday night, Lakers President and Governor Jeanie Buss said she’ll hold him to that. “Yeah, of course,” Buss told The Times at the 11th annual Lakers All-Access event at Staples Center on Tuesday night. “But I don’t see why — given the resources, given our legacy, given who our head coach is, who our front office is — [we’ll have] any problem.”
There is one large contract they do have going forward — the $48.5 million the Lakers committed to Bryant this year and next. But both Busses stood firmly behind Bryant during the interview. “I think there’s maybe a handful of guys in the league that are worth as much as he is and we’re lucky to have him,” Jeanie Buss said of Bryant. “I think he’s worth every penny.” Said Jim Buss: “I just believed in Kobe’s ability to play at a high level. He deserves it.”
But tank? As far as Lakers president Jeanie Buss is concerned, tanking is “unforgivable” and “irresponsible.” “I think the teams that use that as a strategy are doing damage,” Buss said as part of a wide-ranging ESPN The Magazine joint interview with her brother, and Lakers president of player personnel, Jim Buss. “If you’re in a tanking mode and you’re doing that for three years or whatever, that means you’ve got young players from the years that you were at the bottom that you’re teaching bad habits to. I think that’s unforgivable. “If you’re tanking and you have young players or you keep a short roster, you’re playing guys out of their position or too many minutes, you’re risking injury. It’s irresponsible and I don’t think it belongs in any league.”
Buss, 30, also has an important role with the Lakers. “I serve as an alternate governor on the Board of Governors,” he said. “I’ve been doing that over six years now.” His sister Jeanie Buss is the Lakers’ president and governor. The team’s patriarch passed away in February 2013, to cancer complications. “Fortunately my father was very organized for us,” said Joey. “He did a lot of the estate planning. He set up everything up in such a way that it was very easy for us to pick up and go.”
As for the idea that he might play beyond those two seasons, one that was endorsed by Jeanie Buss in a recent interview with USA TODAY Sports when she expressed a desire to re-sign Bryant after his current contract is done, Bryant isn’t seeing it. For better or worse, he reiterated as he has in the past, this 19-season marriage that has brought him far more joy (five championships) than it has pain will be over after the 2015-16 campaign. “Nah, not really,” he said with a grin and a shake of the head when asked if he can envision playing beyond his current contract. “But I’m so loyal to this organization, there’s not a chance (of him leaving)…I’ve been really fortunate to win a lot of games here, a lot of championships here. You can’t (expletive) with (that).”
“It’s not going to happen,” he continued after finishing with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists against the Hornets,. “I have a no-trade clause. (Lakers governor) Jeanie (Buss) and (Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations) Jimmie (Buss) aren’t sending me anywhere.”
Q: What’s your relationship with Lakers president Jeanie Buss? Are you friends? GZ: I know Jeanie; I like her. And we’re having lunch next week. She was one of my first calls. Q: You’ve been described as someone with big ideas. When you look at this team, have those ideas started to percolate? Do you already have some? GZ: I have a few, but they need to be vetted. That means you have to bring in a big group of people around you and throw them out there. But, you know, have a good idea when people say, ‘Oh wow. That’s impossible.’ That’s when you know it’s the right thing. It can be anything. The way I look at the world is to find something really meaty that seems impossible and make it possible. Those will be the kind of opportunities we’ll be looking for here, and I absolutely believe Steve thinks the same way. That’s what he wants for this franchise.
Buss describes the motorcycle-riding hippie, who is known as the “Zen Master,” as “very competitive, which makes it very interesting. He’s such an open person, but yet, he will slice you,” she says, noting he has never let her win a Words With Friends game. “He will always figure out a way to beat me. It’s uncanny.” And since he moved East, Buss says her lonely kitchen has an echo. “I haven’t had a home-cooked meal in months. I’m spoiled with Phil. He makes a great paella. He should share that recipe.”
When asked if she would crown herself the most powerful female in the league, the down-to-earth Buss balks. “There are a few women. But to be the most powerful? That’s not my goal in any way. Am I in a position of power? Yes. “I don’t think gender plays a role in [success],” she continues. “I would say if you are ill-prepared and haven’t done your homework, it doesn’t matter if you are male or female.”
The Lakers kick off their season Tuesday, while Jackson’s squad opens their season Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls. “I don’t talk about Knicks stuff. I am not part of the Knicks. That’s not my business,” says Buss, who wears an emerald-cut three-stone engagement ring — designed by the jeweler who made the last two Lakers championship rings — on her left hand. “We’re just like so many other couples that are bicoastal and trying to figure out when we can spend time together. I don’t think we’re fascinating. We’re not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.”