Jim Buss Rumors
But the Lakers will have to make their biggest improvements internally, far from the cameras. They have to decide if they’re going to join the Brave New NBA World of 3-pointers, small ball and analytics — Russell could fit right into that kind of style of play, which should provide some hope for Lakers fans. And they have to know how to sell their post-Kobe world to the free agents of the future, and who will lead them there.
Asked about that deadline in a radio appearance with KPCC on Thursday, Jeanie Buss reiterated that timeline is still in place and that if the Lakers don’t reach their goals by then, she’s ready for change. “Yeah, absolutely,” Buss said. “This is my job. I’m part-owner of the team, but I’m also the president. The Buss family is the majority owner but we have other partners as well who are also shareholders, and I have an obligation to them. Would I make those changes? Yes. My brother understands that we have to continue to strive for greatness, and I think he would be the first one to feel that he would need to step down if he can’t get us to that point.”
Sure enough, what happened was, the Lakers called him. Mitch Kupchak left him a voice mail message confirming the report was just an unsubstantiated rumor and the Lakers were “incredibly happy” with their guy. Jim Buss then called and endorsed Scott personally. Upon which Scott just smiled and went back to work. “I know how this league is,” he said of the incident from a couple of weeks ago. “I’m not going to sweat things that are out of my control.”
If you’ve arrived at the completely logical party, hosted by the estimable Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, that Rajon Rondo shall not be welcome on your team under any circumstances at any price tag, it’s probably for the best. Lakers co-owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak, however, are not there. So there remains a distinct possibility in today’s space-and-shoot NBA that the Los Angeles Lakers will be the torchbearers for the old school and sign the pass-first (nay, pass-only) Rondo to a free-agent contract this summer. But what should be made clear, according to team sources, is that Buss is not the believer he was earlier in the season when it comes to Rondo, and Kupchak is toting enough healthy skepticism that he sees Rondo as value only at a certain low price.
The tide has turned in Los Angeles. Once considered the No. 1 destination for NBA free agents, the Lakers have struggled in recent years to find marquee players to pair with star Kobe Bryant. Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes, who played alongside Bryant for two seasons with the Lakers, has a theory about his former team’s recent rut. The common misconception is that players cower at the idea of playing with Kobe due to his ultracompetitive nature, says Barnes. But the onus is actually on the front office, Barnes recently told SI.com’s Chris Ballard for an upcoming feature story. “The reason people don’t want to go to the Lakers is because of management,” Barnes tells SI.com. “Kobe can be the scapegoat all they want but if you play hard, Kobe likes you. And if you bulls— around, he doesn’t. It’s plain and simple. He’s not a vocal leader. He just expects you to play as hard as you can every minute on the court, like he does.” Ethan J. Skolnick: Derrick Rose playing tonight, still on roughly 20 minute limit, likely won’t play fourth quarter
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.”
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.”
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.”
Mark Medina: Mitch Kupchak on Magic saying Jim Buss doesn’t give him enough authority to make decisions: “I have the same authority I had w/ Dr. Buss. Jerry West had the same authority with Dr. Buss. I’ve got that same authority with Jimmy. Jimmy and I work very closely together”
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson said he has serious questions about whether Jim Buss can turn around the team, which is mired in the worst period in franchise history. “Jim is trying to do it himself and trying to prove to everybody that this was the right decision that my dad gave me the reins,” Johnson said Tuesday on ESPN’s “First Take.” “He’s not consulting anybody that can help him achieve his goals and dreams to win an NBA championship.”
Later, in an appearance on Stephen A. Smith’s SiriusXM/Mad Dog Sports Radio show, Johnson again questioned Buss, although this time he did so while referencing Lakers star Kobe Bryant. “And I really believe this: [Kobe] should … say to Jim and them, ‘Look, if you don’t sign one of these free agents [this offseason], man, I’m just not going to play next year,'” Johnson said.
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.”
The Buss Family’s love affair with Bryant is well-known in NBA circles. “I don’t see them trading Kobe, not at all,’’ said one rival NBA team president. “The Lakers almost have to keep him, as much for business reasons as anything else, and I believe that’s what they’re going to do.’’
According to an internal league memo which ranked the projected profitably of each team for last season on the basketball side of their business, the Lakers – who have a local television deal with Time Warner that is worth up to $5 billion and could last up to 25 years – led the league at $100.1 million. The Chicago Bulls were a distant second at approximately $61 million, and the Spurs – who were among the 21 teams projected to be profitable – were in sixth place. According to a person who has the memo which was first revealed by the web site, Grantland, the Spurs’ profits were projected at $26.1 million. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the memo was private.
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).”