Jeanie and Jim Buss insist the Lakers won’t ever tank
An interview with ESPN gave insight into the Los Angeles Lakers and the family that owns and operates them.
The Los Angeles Lakers have fallen on hard times. Since the death of owner Jerry Buss, his children, daughter Jeanie and son Jim, have taken the reins of the organization and have yet to find the same success their father enjoyed throughout his ownership. In the last two years, the Lakers soured Dwight Howard on making Los Angeles his long-term home and riled up the fan base with several coaching decisions and roster moves.
A 6-16 start to this season has given Lakers fans another glimpse at a motivated Kobe Bryant, but little else. In an interview with Jeanie and Jim Buss, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne questioned the Lakers’ owners about their past and their philosophies moving forward.
The future won’t involve tanking even though their first-round draft choice is going to Phoenix if it falls outside the top five picks:
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.
Shelburne hit on several other topics in her interview. Among them, the Buss family stands behind the decision did to re-up Bryant’s contract for two more seasons. Jeanie and Jim understand it’s a process that won’t have any results until the summertime, when there will be more financial flexibility.
The interview also backtracked to two years ago, when the Lakers traded for Howard and Steve Nash. After Los Angeles fired coach Mike Brown five games into the season, Jeanie and Jim had a disagreement over who the next coach would be. Their father, who at the time was hospitalized, wanted to bring on Mike D’Antoni to help Nash’s game, but Jeanie wanted her boyfriend, Phil Jackson, to have a shot at returning to the Lakers. That, Jeanie thought, would help the team play around Howard.
Jim emphasized it was his father’s decision to hire D’Antoni, while Jeanie said it shouldn’t have been his to make.
Jeanie wrote that it felt like she was being stabbed in the back by the way the situation with Phil Jackson was handled. Jim, how did that make you feel?
Jeanie: [Pressing her hands on the table] Can we not talk about feelings? I’m biased because I think Phil is wonderful. That’s why I’m marrying him. You probably think your husband is great too. It’s OK for me to be biased. It’s OK for me to be disappointed. If it was a source of conflict between me and my brother, it’s gone now.
Jim: It hurts me every day how this all went. I’ve apologized to Jeanie.
But what about the future?
The Buss family believes that, no matter how the collective bargaining agreement changes to appease small market teams, they have the asset of experience that no other team does. Additionally, the Lakers indeed will have financial freedom in the coming years to put stars around Kobe.
How exactly the Lakers woo top free agents after failing to do so this past offseason remains to be seen.
Check out the entire interview at ESPN.