Irving Azoff

Lakers Briefly Explored Leaving Staples Center For Forum

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and business mogul Irving Azoff had discussions about the idea of moving the Lakers’ home arena from the Staples Center back to The Forum, according to emails obtained by Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times.

As Fenno details, it’s not clear how far those discussions actually advanced, but the Lakers have no plans to move out of the Staples Center when their lease expires in 2025. In fact, the franchise is believed to be discussing an extension for that lease, per The Times’ report.

Still, the messages obtained by Fenno – which began when Azoff reached out to Buss about the idea of “rebuilding” The Forum and moving the Lakers back there – are intriguing. Azoff, an associate of Knicks owner James Dolan, whose MSG Co. owns The Forum, testified in a deposition last year that Dolan would have been on board with the idea of selling the Lakers half of The Forum, according to The Times.

“MSG approached the Lakers about the possibility of returning to the Forum following the end of our Lease at Staples Center in 2025, but nothing came from the discussions,” the Lakers said in a statement on Wednesday.

Azoff’s proposal came just before the Clippers revealed plans to eventually move out of the Staples Center themselves and establish a new home arena in Inglewood. The Clippers’ proposed site is just a few blocks away from The Forum, and the team and city have been waged in a legal battle with MSG Co. The company has attempted to prevent the construction of a nearby arena, which would be a direct competitor for concerts and other events.

As Fenno details, emails between Azoff and Buss show the Lakers’ owner expressing surprise and skepticism at the Clippers’ plans.

“They are all crazy,” Buss wrote in one email. “This is a joke. Why would Adam let this happen?”

Presumably, the “Adam” in question is NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

When Azoff wrote back to say that Silver has “no vote” in the matter and added that there will be a long legal fight, Buss replied, “Didn’t Ballz (Clippers owner Steve Ballmer) see what we did to my brother (former Lakers head of basketball operations Jim Buss)?? He will have nothing but Clippers basketball. Whoopee.”

Since the Lakers don’t intend to leave the Staples Center and the Clippers’ lease runs through 2024, this battle isn’t expected to affect fans anytime soon, but Fenno’s report – which is worth checking out in full – provides an interesting glimpse behind the scenes at the fight over some L.A. real estate.

Knicks See Ujiri As Potential Jackson Successor?

Knicks owner James Dolan is exploring potential successors for team president Phil Jackson, with Raptors GM Masai Ujiri believed to be among them, as Frank Isola of the New York Daily News indicates and as fellow Daily News scribe Stefan Bondy confirms via Twitter. Jackson can opt out of his contract after next season. The Zen Master is currently pushing for a new multiyear deal for Kurt Rambis that would remove the interim tag from his head coaching title, sources tell Marc Stein and Ian Begley of

Dolan confidant Irving Azoff supports Jackson and is close with Rambis, according to Isola, who points out that Azoff also has ties to Ujiri. Former Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, who brought Ujiri to the Raptors, is a business partner of Azoff, Isola notes.

It would be no shock for Ujiri to become heavily sought after given his success with Toronto, which has already set a franchise record with 52 wins this season and is poised to enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and in Denver, where Ujiri’s final team also set a franchise record with 57 wins. Still, it remains to be seen whether he would have interest in leaving the Raptors for New York, particularly given the strong pull he felt toward the Toronto organization when he left the Nuggets. Plus, his Raptors contract runs for two more years, Isola points out.

Jackson, 70, has been vague about whether he intends to finish the five-year contract he signed to run the Knicks in 2014, though comments he made last month seemed to indicate he doesn’t intend to go anywhere soon. People close to him even reportedly raised the idea he would coach on a part-time basis next season, though Jackson shot that idea down.

Instead, Jackson appears ready to formally give the coaching job to Rambis, an outcome Jackson has reportedly hoped for ever since naming Rambis interim coach in February. New York is just 8-16 since firing former coach Derek Fisher, and sources indicated to Marc Berman of the New York Post that Fisher drew more respect from Knicks players than Rambis doesCarmelo Anthony has said he’d like Jackson to at least listen to other candidates for the head coaching job.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Thomas, Outlaw, Melo

Outgoing Raptors executive Tim Leiweke is in talks with Irving Azoff, a confidant of Knicks owner James Dolan, about a deal that would see them have a stake in assets that are currently part of the Madison Square Garden company, reports Scott Soshnick of MSG, which owns the Knicks, is considering splitting into a pair of companies, as Soshnick details, though Soshnick doesn’t indicate whether there’s a role for Leiweke on the Knicks under consideration. Leiweke, who’s leaving his job with the company that owns the Raptors by the end of June or as soon as a replacement is found, said he doesn’t think the company is close to finding it’s next chief executive.  More from the Atlantic Division..

  • Malcolm Thomas got a fairly substantial contract guarantee of $474K for this season on his four-year, minimum-salary deal with the Sixers, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter).  Thomas, we learned yesterday, was getting set to play in China before Philly reached out to him over the weekend. The rest of his contract with the Sixers is non-guaranteed, as Pincus shows on the team’s Basketball Insiders salary page.
  • The Knicks received a $1,863,840 trade exception when they traded Travis Outlaw to the Sixers, tweets Pincus. That’s equivalent to the difference between the salaries for Outlaw and Arnett Moultrie, whom the Knicks acquired and immediately waived.
  • Carmelo Anthony is preaching patience when it comes to the Knicks, who had a 37-win season, traded Tyson Chandler, and have a first-year head coach, writes Ian Begley of  “It’s a work in progress now. It’s going to be a work in progress until the end of the season,” Anthony said. “We’re not looking for nothing easy, but we know it’s a work in progress. We have a chance to create something here, and we’re excited about it.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Isola’s Latest: Jackson, Lakers, Dolan

Phil Jackson‘s hiring as Knicks president has been one of the most well-documented stories in the NBA this season, but Frank Isola of the New York Daily News has managed to reveal a few fresh angles to the news. We’ll share the highlights of his latest piece here:

  • The Lakers believed Jackson was going to take a salary of $2MM a year to join the Knicks as a consultant when New York first began talks with Jackson in December. Instead, he’ll make $12MM a year as team president, though he’ll still spend time in Southern California as well as New York.
  • Dolan, in spite of his promise to remove himself from basketball decision-making for the Knicks, still considers himself a “basketball guy” and wants to be remembered for bringing Jackson and Carmelo Anthony together.
  • Two of Mike Woodson, Andrea Bargnani and J.R. Smith won’t be with the Knicks next season, and none will be around for 2015/16, Isola writes. It would be no shock if Woodson is in his final days with the Knicks, but Bargnani’s deal runs through next year, and Smith’s goes until the summer of 2016, so it appears that Isola is suggesting the team will trade Bargnani and Smith.
  • Woodson, Bargnani and Smith are all Creative Artists Agency clients, but the emergence of Eagles manager Irving Azoff as a trusted confidant of James Dolan has helped diminish CAA’s once-widespread influence at Madison Square Garden.

Knicks Rumors: Dolan, Mills, Jackson

Knicks owner James Dolan might have won brownie points with Knicks fans Tuesday when he introduced Phil Jackson as team president and perhaps made more public statements in a single day than in the last seven years combined. Still, he made it clear that he’s not primarily interested in popularity as he spoke on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. Ian Begley of has the transcription.

“My goal isn’t to be loved,” Dolan said. “My goal is to win.” 

The owner hasn’t accomplished that goal this season, but there’s plenty more behind-the-scenes intel on what Dolan’s doing to have more success in seasons to come, as we detail in our latest look at the Knicks:

  • Scott Cacciola of The New York Times provides a revelatory look at Dolan’s pursuit of Jackson. Steve Mills was heavily involved, as Cacciola describes, even though Mills wound up ceding his title of team president to Jackson.
  • Irving Azoff, the manager of the Eagles, did much more than merely introduce Dolan and Jackson, as Cacciola reveals in his piece. Azoff is gaining power within Madison Square Garden and is emerging as Dolan’s most trusted confidant, as Frank Isola of the New York Daily News observes (Twitter link).
  • Isola suggests Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley as possible additions to the Knicks organization, though it’s unclear what roles they would play.
  • Dolan doesn’t think Jackson will ever end up coaching the Knicks, as he said during his radio appearance with Kay, but Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News isn’t buying it.