Lakers Say Future’s Clear Even Without Jerry Buss At Helm


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The plan was put into motion years ago, in anticipation of Jerry Buss one day completely stepping aside as Lakers owner or his passing. One of his six children, Jim, would be in charge of basketball operations and another, Jeanie, would run the business side and cast the vote for the Board of Governors.

The patriarch set everything up in advance. Not only that, he set it up far enough in advance that both would be experienced in the roles before he was gone, with Jeanie now in her 14th season as executive vice president of business operations and Jim in his eighth as executive vice president of player personnel. There should not be any uncertainty moving forward.

Except that now Buss is gone and there are questions.

Part of the wondering, despite all Jerry Buss had arranged, down to how any very unlikely future sale of the controlling interest would have to work, is easy to explain: It’s the Lakers. Little things become very big deals in that alternate universe. And the passing of the smart, respected owner on Monday at age 80 is not a little thing.

It is also the timing. The Lakers are underachieving at historic levels. There has already been one coaching change, away from Mike Brown, and there are serious doubts the system of successor, Mike D’Antoni will work with this roster. The trade deadline is Thursday, though there is no indication the organization is debating a serious move that would involve taking on enough money that basketball would need to sync with business. Dwight Howard becomes a free agent in a little more than four months. This is not a time of stability on the court, and now one of the few constants, Jerry Buss, is also gone, so concern among fans increases even more.

The rocky history among the siblings, a well-known secret around the organization, is a dynamic that cannot be ignored. Specifically, as many press reports have noted in as delicate of terms as possible in this time of sympathy for the family, Jeanie and Jim have not gotten along.

And now they are the primary partners determining the future of the Lakers.

Monday, after the death had been announced, John Black, the vice president of public relations for the team, and family spokesman Bob Steiner held a news conference. They answered questions on what happened long ago (favorite Jerry Buss memories), what had just happened (some details of his passing) and what will happen next. They projected the image of a seamless transition.

“If it’s a basketball-operations decision, it’ll be Jim,” Black said.

But, a reporter suggested, doesn’t the business side play into that as well?

Black and Steiner paused.

“It was re-emphasized to John and I this morning,” Steiner said, “that basketball people will make the basketball decisions.”

They were pressed again: What happens if the basketball decisions start impacting the overall business, as can obviously happen?

“Jim Buss understands the business element, Jeanie understands basketball,” Steiner said. “They will work together. I don’t know, does that answer the question?… I just want to re-iterate that they are their father’s children. They do understand the business and the sports elements.”

The departments were separate yet connected for years, just as with every team, only with Jerry Buss available to step in as the final word. That does not exist anymore. There are two people who may at some point be called on to make one decision.

There may even be three people – Jeanie is engaged to Phil Jackson. That could become an additional factor in the thinking in business ops and what basketball moves should be funded beyond the budget.

While Jerry Buss had said for years that Jeanie had final say over her departments for many years, he estimated in 2010 that Jim was in charge of all things basketball about 80 percent of the time. That number obviously increased the past couple seasons, as Jerry stopped attending games as his health worsened and increasingly moved away from day-to-day operations, though still presumably willing to share an opinion on major roster decisions such as trading for Howard or the 2009 extension for Pau Gasol.

Buss said nearly three years ago his responses to questions from Jim were usually along the lines of “Do what you think is best.” He wanted his son to be in control. It just may not have always been the case. Jim, after all, insisted in early November that Brown would not take the fall for a bad start, just before Brown took the fall in early-November for a bad start.

Jim Buss didn’t have to make such a strong statement that Brown was safe. He doesn’t do many interviews and so it wouldn’t have been unusual for him to do one then. But to say Brown would be staying, to soon fire Brown, and to bring in D’Antoni to implement the closest thing to Showtime in the current NBA all pointed to Jerry Buss getting involved.

Now, the patriarch is gone. There is Jim Buss with general manager Mitch Kupchak, and Jeanie Buss, and there is a plan.

32 Comments

  1. Croakus says:

    Clippers are the new Showtime and the Lakers are just Oldtimers, and don’t do the trade for Garnett never trade backwards younger for older not good, your going backwards!!

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      All those trade rumors and what did it amount to? VERY VERY LITTLE. Rumor mills are rumor mills.

      Bryant can “guarantee” the Lakers will make this year’s playoffs, if he wants. This is how arrogant he is. There’s a difference between being confident and being delusional. Rumors and guarantees — we all could use a little dose of REALITY.

      Hate to state the obvious … but the playoffs are locked. Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Warriors, Jazz, Rockets. I don’t see these teams self-destructing. Now that the all-star break and rumors are over, these teams want the playoffs and they’re not giving up their positions. No way. I don’t know if Dallas can make a surprising run. But, let’s face it. The Jazz and Rockets just keep piling on the wins. And they’re currently 7 and 8 seeds. The West is too deep. It’ll probably require at least 45 wins just to make the West playoff bracket. This isn’t baseball. You can’t make up this much ground at this point of the NBA season; it’s dependent on too many variables.

      Sincerely,

      Joshua Greenfarb

  2. Heisenberg says:

    The Zen Master is the man. Really genius of him being engaged with Jeanie Buss.

  3. Max says:

    Any death brings much pain. Also, changes often become necessary. However, the first year the HEAT tried to put together a team with at least 3 Superstars it was horrible. Even tears were mentioned coming from the Heat’s locker room. So, Lakers are just completing their first year? So, IF Jim Buss decides to take the time to build the Superstars into a winning team, then it will take more than one season as did that happen in Miami. So, hopefully Jim and his GM can use what happened in Miamia as an example and KNOW it will take more than one season to get Superstars to get!

  4. Robert Salazar says:

    Lakers go to win and take other championship

  5. sports fan says:

    The Buss family should now change the team’s name to the Oceaners, because they’re nowhere near the great lakes, or move the team back to Minneapolis.

  6. Laurence says:

    you should sign Phil Jackson again and never lose Dwight< he just the center Lakers need but no anticipation by D'Antoni that cause Lakers Pick n' Roll don't work…. If Dwight Be A free agent, who will replace him? Sacre? (No Offense) Lakers need much more strong bench and some great big men…… May be you can sign Josh Smith now it is 2 days from now so think about signing him for replacement to dwight

  7. Rocks says:

    I’m not a Laker fan but Kobe fan and I hate to see what he’s going through. I know how bad he want the sixth ring to equal MJ but by the look of things he might not get it. For me it all started with Fisher leaving the team. He was the voice of reason to Kobe. Someone who he could count on when going to battle with. Then Phil left. Then Lamar. Byanum. Now Dr Buss and Pau is on line. I’m sure the surrounding is getting strange by the day for Kobe. When he look to left he sees Metta talking trash with the media, to the right Dwight sobbing about the pain on his shoulder and in front is D’Antoni shouting “offence win championship”. And sometimes it shows in his game. He is trying so hard to do everything by himself sometimes he approach the game in the wrong way. And now that the leadership of the franchise is in question I don’t see it getting better for him. I will really love to see Kobe get his last ring before calling it quits. But with competition getting stronger and stronger the window is closing fast. Matter of fact, I think Tim Duncan’s chances outstrip his before retirement. It’s really sad. Sometimes I enjoy the MJ vs Kobe debate. But now that Kobe might not get his sixth ring I doubt the debate will hold any water. Like MJ said he will rather choose 5 over 1 (Kobe vs Lebron) so I guess many people will easily choose 6 over 5….lol. Well, Laker fans will jump and shout it’s not over yet for Kobe but tell that to Lebron, Kevin, Tony Parker, Chris Paul because they are going for that ring and deservingly so. I’m an OKC fan but it’s always sad to see great franchises like the Celtics and the Lakers going through what they are going through. It’s sad indeed.

  8. Kobe4Life says:

    The only thing Lakers needs to get rid off is D’Antoni. He failed with Suns and Knicks with a good roster. He’s failing now with the Lakers. His system is garbage, no defense, run-and-gun, no post plays.

  9. KB24 says:

    RIP Dr Jerry Buss.
    Hope for a better future for the Lakers, Jim has ti hire PJ as GM and has to understand the mistakes he did:
    get rid of Mike D and for middle term…..try to acquire somehow CP3 and KD…this has to be the real challenge for the Lakers in the next years.

  10. Scott says:

    Lakers should change the name to fuk fuk

  11. LAL True Fan says:

    Not until they trade Howard for Harden and morris and 1st round draft pick

  12. Darrick says:

    Listen…I had my doubts too. But i had to look at the course of events this last year….First of all. Jim, Mitch Kupchak, Jeanie, ADDRESSED THE LAKERS BIGGEST NEED. An athletic point guard. C-H-R-I-S P-A-U-L….REMEMBER???? David Stern vetoed the deal.

    Lets stop there for a minute….if that deal goes through we’re having an entirely different conversation. Because they still had Bynum, and anyone with any amount of common sense knows that Howard was weeks away from coming behind Paul. However the deal didnt go through. We lost Odom for nothing as a result of his meltdown. In a panic, our plan B was Steve Nash/ D’ Antoni. So look, the same people everyone is worried about is the same combination that drafted bynum, got Gasol, and made the effort to get Paul. ULTIMATELY THINGS WILL WORK OUT.

  13. JV says:

    I dont think so if Jim Buss is good fit with the lakers??? Just try to deal with Phil Jackson to run the team…

  14. Oracle says:

    Trust me, with Jerry Buss now gone, the rest of the family are now easy pickings. I give them 5 years and they will be forced to sell the Lakers. Guys like Mark Cuban have always wanted the Lakers. There are several other cut-throat billionaires who like Jerry Buss made their money the hard way, and they’ll be scheming to get their hands on the Lakers. The Buss family do not carry clout or hold sway without Jerry in there. Only, amongst the children, Jeanie comes close to being like Jerry.

  15. strateg says:

    what about Gortat for Howard ? Gortat is more better pick and roll player . this is good choice when main offensive in not resist on center but on sg and pg. he can rebounding well .

  16. i have a plan for wining but we are too late.first we have no wining players.only one player kobe is best but others are very weak.why laker’s have not intrest in kevin durrent.westbrook.camrun anthoni,allen.jermi leen.cris poul,griffin who play in cleeper.

  17. dwan fulwood says:

    Bring in Phil Jackson now. Return to the triangle , get the ball inside to Howard. Play some defense. Jim has to know that not bringing in Phil to coach was a mistake by now.

  18. team selection is very poor with this team youcan’t win. and this is true.at this time youare not enter in top eight.this is also true.

  19. purpngold says:

    In Mitch we trust..

  20. purpngold says:

    RIP Dr. Jerry Buss.
    Thank you for all the great memories you leave behind and for all the greatness you brought to Los Angeles.Your legacy will forever live in our hearts.
    P.s. There should be a statue erected at Staples to commemorate Dr. Buss and forever remind us of the Man responsible for the Lakers abundance of success in L.A.

  21. Clippsss says:

    Jim Buss is going to ruin the Lakers

  22. Brd33 says:

    Jim has made a mess of things. He should have hired his future brother in law.

  23. nnn328 says:

    Can we just support the Buss family. Their father just died. Have some consideration and sympathy. Not a time for negativity. My condolences to the Buss family. Thank you for all you have done for us fans and basketball. I will continue to believe and support you all.

  24. Mac says:

    For a start Jim, TRADE Dwight Howard!!! People are annoyed by just hearing his name!!!! He is very good with respect on how he thinks of the fans BUT peoplewould love more to see their team winning!! He is just a waste of time and investment.

  25. LakersWillWin says:

    Plan or not, it is still a scary situation. Jim definitely does not want to live in the shadows of his father and will strive to make his own success. Will his decisions reflect winning? That is the question we are all eager to see.

    • SG23 says:

      ‘will his decisions reflect winning’ is not english. WHAT OTHER decisions can he make ? losing? he’ll make decisions to lose… comon man, please read before you use your fingas

  26. GCast says:

    IMO, I don’t think Jim is a good choice, probably the only bad decision Dr. Buss has ever made. #RIPDrBuss