Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss this week revealed the team has arranged almost all of its contracts to end in 2014 so the purple and gold can "make a big splash in the free agent market" that summer. The big fish that year could be LeBron James, just the latest in a star-studded litany of names that have been associated with the Lakers in the past several months. After a second straight playoff exit in the conference semifinals left Buss "very disappointed" in the team at the end of 2011/12, the Lakers appear back in business of contending for titles after the acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Though Buss tells Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register that his father Jim is still "the final hammer" within the organization, GM Mitch Kupchak said the younger Buss is gradually taking over. "It's almost been a complete transition, really," Kupchak said in Ding's report.
Ding sat down with Jim Buss for a lengthy interview, and the Lakers executive shared several intriguing tidbits.
On this summer's moves:
"I've felt the last two years, we had a chance to win the championship. Adding two Hall of Famers, basically, to this squad? To me, you kind of erase that 'we're taking steps' idea. We're here. Do what we're supposed to do."
On the front-office collaboration with Kupchak:
"It's a collective effort on every step. Mitch might have his own thoughts. He might make some phone calls to see if it's even possible. And he'll introduce it to me, and I'll say, 'Give me a day to work out some numbers and see if I think it's a fit.' Basically it's the value part I do. I'm not going to question if he likes a guy. Maybe I'd say, 'Mitch, by my numbers, the guy's a $3MM player. Right now, the market's dictating he's getting six. We just can't do it.'"
On why he says he defers to Kupchak most of the time:
"That's the area that is gray for me. Mitch is fantastic at saying, 'Well, he's a good player, but he doesn't fit our team.' Breaking down a player, you can do so much number-wise. But you need that extra 'does he fit?'"
On his approach to analytics:
"To me, a ridiculous stat is plus-minus. I think it's just useless. I needed to weed out and understand what affects the game of basketball. In the past five years, those applications of numbers came into play where I believe them. It took me years to believe they do have an effect."
On his new point guard:
"The intangible with Steve Nash is he's a winner; he's dedicated. He's just a phenomenal facilitator. My numbers take that all into consideration. I'm not concerned about his defense, because he's the oil to make this whole thing run, and I think the guys will help out defensively. And I don't see as bad of defense as everybody talks about."