Buss siblings open up about Bryant, Lakers’ mistakes, team’s future

kobe

Would the Lakers consider trading Kobe Bryant if the season continues to be a struggle? (NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers headed into the weekend with an unfamiliar and uncomfortable 6-16 record. Their three-game trip to San Antonio, Minnesota and Indiana was bound to be memorable, with Kobe Bryant closing in on Michael Jordan‘s NBA points total. But it also figured to be more of the same as far as struggles – the Lakers were dragging on the road with them the league’s worst defense (114.6 defensive rating) and a mediocre offense (106.5 offensive rating) too dependent on Bryant. And for all his skills and achievements for the storied franchise, and his profanity-laced blistering of teammates in practice as presumed motivation the other day, coach Byron Scott‘s crew has played better with Bryant off the floor than on it (a minus-18.8 swing per 100 possessions).

It was against that backdrop that Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss, two of late Lakers owner Jerry Buss‘ six children and the two most heavily involved in running the team, sat for a joint interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com. In their answers to Ramona Shelburne, the Buss siblings gave a thorough state-of-the-Lakers snapshot. Here are a few excerpts:

There’s been a lot of talk that this season is going so badly that you should trade Kobe. Set him free, so to speak. Is there any chance that happens?
Jim:
No. I love Kobe Bryant. I think L.A. loves Kobe Bryant. I don’t envision him going anywhere. I don’t see it.
Jeanie: I don’t want to see Kobe Bryant leave. But we understand the realities of the sports world. Take Shaq, for example. He was traded and played for several other teams. But once he retired, he asked us to retire his jersey. He wanted to be remembered as a Laker. So while I get attached, I know what the realities are in this business. It’s never going to change what we’ve accomplished together. But I don’t look forward to the day that Kobe Bryant’s not in purple and gold.

Your 2015 first-round pick is owed to Phoenix as part of the Steve Nash trade unless it’s in the top five. There is already talk that you should tank to try to keep that pick. How do you respond to that?
Jim:
It will never happen here, period. The question is insulting. Our fans understand there’s a process. They believe in the process — the coach, Kobe, the draft pick [Julius Randle] and the flexibility we have going forward.
Jeanie: The teams that use tanking as a strategy are doing damage. If you’re in tanking mode, that means you’ve got young players who 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.

Jim, in 2012 you made some decisions that were praised initially — trading for Steve Nash and acquiring Dwight Howard — but they didn’t work out and you were criticized. Is that what you mean as far as owning up to your decisions?
Jim:
Do I deserve all the glory if it works? No. Do I deserve all the blame if it doesn’t work? No. But I’m accountable for it.
Jeanie: With the Steve Nash situation, I think we did everything in good faith. We sacrificed to get him by giving up draft picks. We made sure he was one of the top-15-paid players at his position, and we hired a coach that specifically suited his style of play. So from our point of view, we did everything right. You go in with good intentions, and it didn’t work out.

Jeanie, you have been on record as saying that the Lakers let Dwight Howard down. What did you mean by that?
Jeanie:
It came down to hiring a coach. [The Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni in November 2012.] When you have a big man and a guard, you have to decide whom you’re going to build your team around. The choice was to build it around Steve Nash and what suited Steve Nash instead of what suited Dwight Howard.

It sounds as if Jeanie has a difference of opinion on who should have been hired as coach.
Jim:
I’ve been on record as saying [hiring D’Antoni] was my dad’s decision. I know that makes Jeanie uncomfortable, but I’d sit down with him for hours going over Laker decisions. In my opinion, he was sharp.
Jeanie: [Interrupts] Dad was in the hospital. I would always run things by Dad, too. But he was in the hospital, not feeling well, and that is why he counted on us to make the decisions. So I agree that he would have input, but he needed my suggestion or Jimmy’s suggestion or [GM Mitch Kupchak’s] suggestion because he was confined and did not have access to all the information that we did.

Jim, you were quoted in the L.A. Times last year as saying that if you can’t turn the Lakers around in three years, you’d step down. Why did you say that?
Jim:
That’s been the plan all the way through. If I don’t get to that point, then I’ve derailed it somewhere. I’ll stick to that, and I have no problem sticking to that because everything is on track for us to be back on top.

Jeanie, what did you think when you read that?
Jeanie:
There’s no reason to worry because he feels confident that he’ll be successful. So really, there’s no reason to announce a timeline. But I think that, just like any business, if you’re not meeting your expectations in an organization, you should expect a change.

13 Comments

  1. No Regrets says:

    There’s no way this mess will be fixed by next year – the sooner Jim steps down the better for the Lakers.
    Oh, and yeah, trading Kobe would be the best thing for the Lakers, but it’s too late to happen. The Lakers could be a contender had they built around Dwight and gotten Phil. Instead, they’ll be in no man’s land for the years to come. BTW, Magic is right, this team is hopeless, and it’s not Byron’s fault, Best thing they can do is tankl.

  2. Rhedz03 says:

    I give Kobe 2 more seasons and his gone…This is the best time to start preparing for kobes exit meaning…Getting another face of the franchise…Making a decision is hard in any level whether in life, family, school, business or sports. etc. But you have to know what you want then see what you currently have and think what would be the best for the rest not just for a single part of the said goal/vision. In order for the lakers to move forward they need to shake things up…Build from scratch..From J.Lin and N. Young Maybe a true center and a guard / forward say Stephenson and Marc Gasol in future ?

    Center – M.Gasol
    Forward – Boozer
    Forward – J.Smith
    Guard – Stephenson
    Guard – Lin

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. harriethehawk says:

    Propaganda and politics. We will never know what is really going on behind the scenes. Fakers for life.

  4. Sunny Ng says:

    Two honest suggestion, first fire the coach and find someone Koby would approve. Secondly, for god sake, find some young player that can play,trade some injured player if see fit. do not believe in luck. We Lakes fans cannot wait no more.

  5. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Wow, Howard i would of left too bro…..

  6. Max says:

    I feel that the Buss Siblings handled this Q & A very smoothed!!

  7. tenby0630 says:

    The Buss children seem to be very afraid of Kobe. From their business point of view, Kobe brings business contracts to the organization. They blame the Howard issue on Nash and not on Kobe’s prima donna treatment of his teammates. She blames coach D’Antoni (although he should be as well) because she wants Phil at the helm and both of them can totally control the organization. Top talents shy away from the Lakers because they dont want to be bullied by Kobe. He feels he is bigger than the whole Lakers organization. Now, he is using the team in order to achieve his very personal milestone of toppling Kareem as all time scoring leader – at the expense of another lost Lakers season! Change should start from the top! only one Buss to lead the organization as a figure head only and let a professional manager to run the business operations. Get rid of Kupchak as he is no longer performing as an agressive GM. Finally retire or get rid of Kobe and make a fresh start once and for all.

  8. saad says:

    I think Kobe need to be trade to Knicks or he need to come from bench for lakers..
    He gave everything he could..time to play less time and cut salary max 5millions not 24 millions so Lakers can get some good player and we can go back staple to watch game.

  9. ronhawkster says:

    “Jeanie: With the Steve Nash situation, I think we did everything in good faith. We sacrificed to get him by giving up draft picks. We made sure he was one of the top-15-paid players at his position, and we hired a coach that specifically suited his style of play. So from our point of view, we did everything right. You go in with good intentions, and it didn’t work out.”

    Don’t mean to insult you, Jeanie, but that statement makes you sound like a complete idiot. Who’s even talking about your “good faith” and “good intentions”? What the heck does that even mean in this case? If I decide to operate on a person even though I’m not a doctor chances are that person is going to die. Nobody is going to ask me about my good intentions. They’re going to question my competence to have operated. You could have the best intentions in the world but not the competence to run a basketball team and that’s what’s going on now. You folks ran Jerry West out of town and look how the teams he joined after the Lakers have and are thriving: Grizzlies and now Warriors. You children of Buss are clueless and Kupchak is a yes-man. Look at this team with its bloated salary and its amazingly bad and unwatchable teamwork. This team is doomed with you running it. Your best bet is to bring back West or someone like him, hand everything and I mean everything over to him to fix up before he retires from the business, and make sure you don’t go anywhere near the front office because both of you are completely inadequate and incompetent. Frankly, you did better when you were a Playboy centerfold. You have had every chance to prove you’re more than a pretty talking head, and have failed miserably. As for Jim, I can’t even say about him the one good thing I said about you. Jim, retire and go away. You’re extremely unimpressive and underwhelming. Don’t wait 3 years to prove that. Step down now. NOW. It’s in your best interest because the more you hang around the more worthless the Lakers will be. Under your watch the Clippers have gone way past the Lakers and become more valuable.

    • daradioshow says:

      Ronhawkster, i agree with you 100%. Good intentions and good faith equal good idiots. Jeannie & JIm fit that bill cold-heartly. Steve NAsh was to old to gamble such a deal like that.

    • jimmy jazz says:

      I couldn’t believe she said they structured everything around Steve Nash. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard

      • TadaDoctorK says:

        That is the single most revealing fact about why the Laker’s spiralled down since then. And to make it worst, it is exactly what suited Kobe (so he agreed) cause he knew he would be the #1 option for Steeve’s system and not a big man (like Shaq was in the Lakers and not with Steeve’s Sun’s). That is why he was blindly down with it cause even if Steeve went down he could man the point and get his own. And in general in Nash’s career, big weren’t the most important pieces but versatile wings were. So getting Kobe’s stamp of approval on the whole thing was an other mistake. That is why players should play and a clear vision from top to bottom should trickle down. See the Spurs and or the 2000 Laker’s not the 2004 version.

    • Rhedz03 says:

      @ronhawkster: Right on target..You took the words right out of my keyboard…100% agree on every point you made..Hope Buss kids read this…