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Los Angeles Lakers highlights

April 20, 2014 Updates

Her older brother Jim Buss, 54, in charge of the Lakers' basketball operations, spoke up in the boardroom of the team's El Segundo training facility and pledged to resign in a few years if the suddenly dark fortunes of the franchise weren't reversed. "I was laying myself on the line by saying, 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," he told The Times about the meeting. "I don't know if you can fire yourself if you own the team … but what I would say is I'd walk away and you guys figure out who's going to run basketball operations because I obviously couldn't do the job. Los Angeles Times

For her part, Jeanie uses the word "empowering" to describe the current situation with Jim, and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, trying to fix the basketball side of the franchise. "Jim has assured me that they have a plan in place, that the team will be better next year and we will be back in contention shortly," Jeanie said. "He's very confident in that plan and so I have to believe he knows what he's doing and what he's trying to accomplish. We have to be patient and give him that opportunity." Los Angeles Times

There's no doubt, though, who has the final say in the team's day-to-day operations, according to the family trust set up by their father. "If Jeanie and I got into a disagreement, Jeanie can overrule my argument," Jim said. "If she is adamant about the way she wants to do things, all she has to do is say, 'That's the way it's going to be.' But I don't anticipate those kind of arguments. We're two smart people and we respect each other. We're grown up enough to where we can talk things out." Los Angeles Times

Although Jim and Jeanie Buss say the family is committed to keeping the team, it only requires a "yes" vote by four Buss siblings to force the sale of the Lakers. Philip Anschutz, whose company owns Staples Center and the NHL Kings, and who personally owns 27% of the Lakers, holds the "first look" if the Buss family decides to sell its two-thirds ownership stake. It's not as strong as a right of first refusal, but it allows Anschutz a chance to buy the team. But if Anschutz passed because the Busses asked for too much, the Chicago investment group Guggenheim Partners, owner of the Dodgers, would eagerly jump into the bidding. The Guggenheim group envisions employing former Lakers star Magic Johnson as the ceremonial face of the franchise, a role he currently holds with the Dodgers. Los Angeles Times

April 19, 2014 Updates

One choice Jeanie shaped last November was to sign the team's aging superstar, Bryant, 35, to a two-year, $48.5-million contract extension. Jeanie was enamored by the idea of Bryant spending his entire career with the Lakers and pushed for an extension to get him to 20 years with the team. The deal honored Bryant's long career but also limited the Lakers' rebuilding possibilities while anchoring them to a suddenly injury-prone player. Los Angeles Times

However, with Jackson working for the Knicks, some in the Lakers organization believe his departure might help smooth out past family disputes. Jim insists he and his sister Jeanie get along fine. "I hate to burst the bubble of what the perception is. We've worked together for many, many, many years," he said. "With the missing piece of my dad, people think we have lost a connection, but that's not true. It's just business as usual." Los Angeles Times

Still, interviews with NBA officials, agents, players and current and former team employees suggest that the communication between the Lakers' business and basketball operations needs some improvement. Kobe Bryant raised the issue last month, saying the Lakers' future starts with Jim and Jeanie "and how that relationship plays out." Los Angeles Times

There's no doubt, though, who has the final say in the team's day-to-day operations, according to the family trust set up by their father. "If Jeanie and I got into a disagreement, Jeanie can overrule my argument," Jim said. "If she is adamant about the way she wants to do things, all she has to do is say, 'That's the way it's going to be.' But I don't anticipate those kind of arguments. We're two smart people and we respect each other. We're grown up enough to where we can talk things out." Los Angeles Times

As the team tries to retool its roster, Jim continues to work closely with Kupchak, who sounds out ideas with Buss before they arrive at a decision. Buss and Kupchak were torn on what to do with veteran Pau Gasol as the NBA trade deadline approached in February and the team lagged in the standings. Buss was fine with trading him, Kupchak wasn't so sure. In the end, the Lakers were never offered more than a second-round draft pick for the aging star, a pittance in their mind. And they didn't want to seem like they were dumping Gasol's $19.3-million salary for nothing. "Mitch wins a lot more of these battles than people imagine," said an agent who asked not to be identified because he deals with the Lakers. "They respect his caution." Los Angeles Times

April 18, 2014 Updates

At one point, Barnes pump-faked the ball directly into Bryant’s face as he prepared to throw it in bounds. Bryant, to his credit, did not flinch. “What’s funny was, I didn’t realize how close the ball was, because if you look at the replay, I wasn’t even looking,” Barnes said. “I don’t know what made me do it. It rubbed his nose and he didn’t flinch at all. It just kind of shows who he is. He’s just a cold-blooded dude. I respect that about him.” Afterward, Bryant said he was amused. Lakers forward Lamar Odom called Barnes a “monkey” in the postgame locker room and told reporters that “[Barnes] was an action figure today. He was really involved and really into the game. It’s too bad we are not going to see him again [in the regular season].” Barnes responded on Twitter, suggesting Odom should eat Barnes’s twins’ diapers. Within months, they were teammates. “I remember one thing [Kobe] said was, ‘Anyone crazy enough to eff with me is crazy enough to play with me,’” Barnes said. Grantland

Mitch Kupchak talked in-depth about Kobe Bryant's early vacation, Steve Nash's poor health, Pau Gasol's free agency and the Los Angeles Lakers' high draft pick on Friday. But one subject the Lakers general manager provided little clarity into is the future of coach Mike D'Antoni. Kupchak said he and Lakers president Jim Buss will meet with D'Antoni in the "near future," but didn't give a specific timeline for either the meeting or a decision on D'Antoni's future. Kupchak said D'Antoni is under contract for two more seasons, but wasn't definitive in answering whether D'Antoni would be the coach next season. Kupchak and D'Antoni had exit interviews with players on Thursday and Friday, but did not discuss D'Antoni's future. "Mike is under contract for two more years," Kupchak said. "If anything changes, we will let you know." Yahoo! Sports

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