Jeanie Buss

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss Discusses Down Year, Front Office, More

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss wasn’t happy with the way her team’s season played out, she said in a wide-ranging interview with Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. With championship expectations and one of the NBA’s most expensive rosters entering the 2021/22 season, Los Angeles went 33-49 and missed both the playoffs and the play-in tournament.

“I’m growing impatient just because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league,” Buss told Plaschke. “… When you spend that kind of money on the luxury tax, you expect to go deep into the playoffs. So, yeah, it was gut-wrenching for me to go out on a limb like that and not get the results that we were looking for. … I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied.”

As the final decision-maker on Lakers matters, Buss said it was up to her to “make things better” after an “extremely disappointing” year, which could mean making personnel changes on and off the court.

“Absolutely, if we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” she said. “… I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.”

Although it sounds like front office changes could be on the table if the Lakers have another down year, Buss appears prepared to give VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and his group at least one more shot to reshape and upgrade the roster, as well as to hire a new head coach, Plaschke writes.

“In terms of basketball decisions, I have complete confidence in our front office, which is headed by Rob Pelinka,” Buss said. “He is a person that is extremely smart, extremely strategic, everything he does is thoughtful and with purpose. … I have complete confidence that he can put together a roster and find a coach that is going to get us back to where we belong.”

Here’s more from Buss on the state of the Lakers:

  • Buss confirmed that she receives input from Kurt Rambis, Linda Rambis, Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson, LeBron James, and Klutch Sports, but insists that none of those figures have outsized voices within the organization. “Do they have final say? No. Are they running the team? No, no, not at all,” Buss said when asked about James and Klutch Sports, adding that it’s normal for teams to bounce ideas off of their top players. “I am controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m held accountable for every decision that’s made here.”
  • Buss defended Kurt Rambis’ track record against what she perceives as “unfair criticism” and stressed that Linda Rambis has no input in basketball decisions. “In terms of Linda Rambis, she does not have a role in the basketball department; her role is, as it’s been for the last almost 40 years, is as my advisor,” Buss told Plaschke. “She and I have worked together for years and years and years. Why that has become an issue for people, I don’t understand.” Linda helps new Lakers players and their families adjust to Los Angeles, according to Buss: “Every team has somebody like that, in our case it’s Linda. … She’s done that for over 30 years with the Lakers. Not like all of a sudden she’s become the assistant general manager, that’s not true.”
  • Buss believes the Lakers can win another title with James and Anthony Davis as their cornerstones, but declined to speculate on Russell Westbrook‘s future with the team. “Having a conversation like that is premature,” she said. “We have to now find the right coach to lead this team. Depending on the style of play that that coach wants to play, given the roster that we have, it all has to start to come together.”
  • Buss hasn’t given any thought to the idea of selling the Lakers, telling Plaschke that her late father Jerry Buss always wanted to keep the franchise in the family. “I’m not going anywhere. This is exactly what my dad asked me to do. The team is not for sale,” Jeanie said. “… I like to say, my dad had his children, but the Lakers were his baby, and he put me in charge of the baby, and I will make sure that the baby thrives.”

Latest On Lakers: Jackson, Buss, Pelinka, James, Bryant, Westbrook, Vogel

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been in frequent contact with owner Jeanie Buss regarding team matters all season long, according to The Athletic’s Bill Oram and Sam Amick.

It’s uncertain if Jackson, Buss’ ex-fiance, will eventually take a formal role in the future. However, she has relied upon trusted members of her inner circle throughout the team’s tumultuous season and will continue to lean on them to map out the franchise’s offseason approach. Jackson has taken a particular interest in the what The Athletic duo describes as the often uncomfortable dynamics surrounding the Russell Westbrook situation.

It’s unlikely that there will be a change at the top of the team’s front office structure, according to Oram and Amick. GM Rob Pelinka still has Buss’ full support and trust. Kurt Rambis, who works alongside Pelinka as a senior basketball advisor, also remains a strong and trusted voice with the organization.

The story also delves into several other hot topics regarding the Lakers:

  • Among LeBron James‘ inner circle, there are already discussions about the roster and what can be done to fix it for next season. Buss is eager to maintain the trust of James and wants to keep her biggest star happy. The post-All-Star break meeting with James’ representative, super-agent Rich Paul, was aimed at keeping both sides on good terms and quelling any controversies regarding James’ future. Sources close to James insist he does not have issues with the team’s power structure, per Oram and Amick.
  • Kobe Bryant, who was represented by Pelinka, would have been offered a hands-on role in the front office by Buss if not for his untimely death.
  • Coach Frank Vogel will likely be fired unless the team makes a surprising postseason run, per Oram and Amick. However, no final decision has been made.
  • The coaching staff made an unsuccessful push for Westbrook to be traded, according to The Athletic’s duo, who also confirm reports that there’s a growing disconnect between the point guard and the staff, even though Vogel has kept him in the starting lineup.

Pacific Notes: Thompson, Kings, LeBron, Rich Paul

Warriors wing Klay Thompson sourced input from a variety of his NBA colleagues across the league, past and present, while rehabilitating from back-to-back season-ending injuries, writes Mark Medina of NBA.com. Thompson tore his ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals, and subsequently tore his Achilles while ramping up for the 2020/21 season.

“So many people count you out when you go through an injury like this,” Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins, who consulted with Thompson, told Medina. “You know your heart. You just got to stay focused, diligent and tough. You can get back from this.”

Wilkins suffered an Achilles tear while playing for the Hawks, but ultimately returned to his All-Star form afterwords.

Thompson also maintained a dialogue over text with former Warriors teammate Kevin Durant, now with the Nets. Durant tore his Achilles while with Golden State during the 2019 postseason.

“It’s inspiring to watch him and see him look the exact same way prior to the injury,” Thompson said in praising his teammate. “It’s a testament not only to his willpower but his skill level. He might lose a little quickness or a little bounce. But you’ll never lose the ability to put the ball in the hole.”

The 31-year-old five-time All-Star also spoke with Grant Hill and Rudy Gay about their own recoveries from major injuries. Thompson is averaging 17.1 PPG with a reduced minutes load this season as he continues to work his way back, hoping to reclaim his All-Star form come playoff time.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Given that the perpetually rebuilding Kings cannot necessarily rely on big-ticket free agency additions as a small market franchise, Chris Binderman of the Sacramento Bee wonders if Sacramento could benefit from taking a page out of the Nuggets‘ playbook when it comes to adding and developing talent.
  • The 27-32 Lakers find themselves facing an uncertain future after going all-in on Russell Westbrook in a trade this summer. Although LeBron James appeared to voice his relative apathy about a long-term future in Los Angeles during the 2022 All-Star Weekend festivities, he has since expressed his commitment to the team. When Bill Oram of The Athletic openly hypothesized that James might not want to remain with the Lakers beyond the end of his current deal, James retorted in comments to the press. “Anytime Bill says anything about the Lakers it’s going to be negative,” James said. “So, I hope no one in the Lakers faithful listens to Bill Oram. I hope not. He hasn’t said one great thing about the Lakers in so long.” In a new piece for The Athletic, Oram opines that James himself was responsible for the latest rumblings.
  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, GM Rob Pelinka, and James’ longtime agent Rich Paul met this week to discuss everyone’s feelings surrounding their team-building strategy. Sam Amick of The Athletic provides more details on the group’s conversation.

LeBron Clears Air, Wants To Stay With Lakers For “As Long As I Can Play”

LeBron James reiterated his desire to finish out his career with the Lakers and said he doesn’t “push the buttons” when it comes to personnel decisions, as he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and other media members after the team’s loss to the Clippers on Friday night.

James is under contract for one more season and will be eligible to sign a two-year extension this summer.

“This is a franchise I see myself being with. I’m here. I’m here,” James said. “I see myself being with the Purple and Gold as long as I can play.”

James raised a lot of eyebrows with his comments during All-Star weekend that he wouldn’t close the door on a possible return to Cleveland. He also stirred the pot by heaping praise on Thunder general manager Sam Presti for his ability to identify talent.

James also expressed his desire in an interview with The Athletic to eventually play with his 17-year-old son, Bronny. However, James said Friday he hopes that will occur in L.A.

“I also have a goal that, if it’s possible — I don’t even know if it’s possible — that if I can play with my son, I would love to do that,” he said. “Is that, like, something that any man shouldn’t want that in life? That’s like the coolest thing that could possibly happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with this franchise.”

Bronny would not be eligible to play in the NBA until the 2024/25 season.

In terms of his relationship with the front office, James said his comments about Presti were not a potshot toward GM Rob Pelinka.

“If I comment [on] or compliment the GM that’s in OKC — I really believe he’s done a phenomenal job. And you guys spin that to me saying that Rob is not doing a great job,” James said.

Super-agent Rich Paul, whose agency represents James and Anthony Davis, met with Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss on Tuesday in what could be characterized as a clear-the-air session.

Pelinka consults his superstars regarding potential moves, including the Russell Westbrook trade with Washington that contributed significantly to the Lakers’ poor season. There were also reports James and Davis were unhappy the front office stood pat at the trade deadline.

James says he doesn’t have final say on trades.

“I don’t push the buttons,” James said. “They ask for my opinion, and I voice my opinion and what I believe. But I don’t press any buttons. That’s what our front office is for, and that’s what our leadership group is for.”

He also feels the influence that he and his representative have within the franchise sparks jealousy.

“I mean, I think a lot of people are, to be honest, just jealous of the relationship that Rich has with the front office and with this team and with the relationship that I have, that I’ve grown over the last four years. I mean, that’s what I think it boils down to,” he said.

Rich Paul Meets With Lakers’ Brass, Assures Team LeBron Wants To Stay In L.A.

LeBron James wants to remain with the Lakers and he and his representatives are not insisting on front office changes, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.

James’ representative, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, met with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka on Tuesday, and expressed LeBron’s desire to remain with the team beyond this season. James is eligible for an extension this offseason.

Paul also stressed that there’s no push from his side for management changes and that there’s shared accountability, as Wojnarowski described it, for the team’s disappointing season.

James and Klutch Sports were reportedly upset with Pelinka for standing pat at the trade deadline.

Paul also spoke to Buss and Pelinka of James’ desire to finish off the season as strong as possible and then seek to upgrade the roster in the offseason.

Paul’s agency also represents Anthony Davis, who is out several weeks due to a foot injury.

James raised a lot of eyebrows with his comments during All-Star weekend that he wouldn’t close the door on a possible return to Cleveland. He also stirred the pot by heaping praise on Thunder general manager Sam Presti for his ability to identify talent.

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Bazemore, Craig, Biyombo

Magic Johnson stepped down from his post as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in 2019 but team owner Jeanie Buss still leans on the Hall-of-Famer for advice, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic. “To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kent Bazemore hasn’t been part of the Lakers rotation since mid-November and hasn’t played since February 3. However, he’s not sulking over his lack of playing time, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. “Some nights, it gets hard having to hold back that competitive nature. Especially if a guy gets going, I know defensively, I made a living off of taking guys out of the game, shutting off the water, so to speak. That gets the best of me sometimes,” Bazemore said. “But that’s just the competitor in me. … I’m doing what I love. I don’t mind putting in the work for it, even though I’m out of the rotation.”
  • The Suns wanted to bring back Torrey Craig during the offseason but prioritized signing JaVale McGee with their mid-level exception, John Gambadoro of of 98.7 FM Phoenix tweets. Craig found a two-year deal with Indiana before the contract with McGee was finalized. Craig was traded back to Phoenix last week. The Suns still have a portion of the mid-level available to use on the buyout market, Gambadoro adds.
  • Craig said the trade back to the Suns was a deadline-day surprise to him, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. “It just happened so fast,” Craig said. “I was literally practicing in Indiana and then I noticed it was an hour before the trade deadline. Came to my phone and I had a couple of missed calls from my agent. And then he called me and told me (the) situation and I was like, wow. It had just happened. It was a quick turnaround. I packed and I came here. I’m excited to be back.”  
  • Bismack Biyombo told his agent, former NBA player B.J. Armstrong, that he only wanted to sign with a title contender in free agency, Marc Spears of The Undefeated reports. “That was the hardest part,” Biyombo said. “I talked to my agent and I said, ‘Look, the only way I will do it is for a contender. Otherwise, I’m not doing it.’ Biyombo remained unsigned until a 10-day with Phoenix under the hardship exception. He later signed a rest-of-the-season deal with the Suns last month.

Pacific Notes: Kerr, Buss, Clippers, Durant, Green

The mantra for the Warriors this coming season appears to be “balance,” writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. According to Johnson, the way the team has re-balanced through its veteran signings and draft class is one of the main things that excites head coach Steve Kerr coming into the season.

I think this year’s team will offer a much better mix of mentors and veterans to go along with those young guys,” Kerr said on the latest episode of Dubs Talk podcast. “… It’s real exciting to think of the structure of the team and the balance and what we can accomplish.”

After two straight years of missing the playoffs, Kerr says he feels the team is back to a level where it can compete every night, especially once star Klay Thompson returns from his two-year hiatus due to ACL and Achilles injuries.

It’s really hard to gauge where we are against the rest of the Western Conference,” Kerr said. “Obviously there’s a lot of great teams. We haven’t even had a practice to put the group together. But I’m very excited about the potential.”

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently sat down with Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. In the interview, she describes why the legacy of her father’s Showtime Lakers impels her to build not just a great basketball team, but a stylish one. She talks about why she doesn’t like the play-in tournament, why Kobe Bryant‘s 20-year run with a single team is unlikely to be repeated, and says “our fans are going to be just cuckoo for (Russell Westbrook), are going to be so happy that he’s here.
  • The Clippers may not have shaken up their roster in a major way, but Summer League provided some reasons for excitement, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. No. 51 pick Brandon Boston outperformed expectations, knocking down shots and creating off the dribble, No. 33 pick Jason Preston overcame a rough start to show his ability to orchestrate the offense and get into the paint, while hyper-athletic wings Jay Scrubb and Keon Johnson both showcased why they’re intriguing talents while also laying bare the flaws that could keep them off the floor early on.
  • In a much-discussed interview with Bleacher Report, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green explored the last year of their time together with the Warriors, as well as their infamous blow-up in November of 2018. As Nick Friedell of ESPN explores, Durant and Green blamed head coach Steve Kerr and president of basketball operations Bob Myers for mishandling the response to that dust-up. “Y’all are about to f— this up,” Green said he told the Warriors front office. “I said, ‘The only person that can make this right is me and (Durant). And there is nothing that y’all can do, and y’all are going to f— this up.’ And in my opinion, they f—ed it up.” In response, Durant said, “I think so too.”

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss Talks LeBron, Front Office, AD, More

With the Lakers back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, team owner Jeanie Buss told Sam Amick of The Athletic in a podcast appearance that MVP runner-up LeBron James has played a key role in “bringing this franchise back to where it should be” and that she’s extremely proud of the fact that he plays for the Lakers.

“I hope he plays for many, many more years. But whatever his term is with the Lakers, he has forever left his mark on this team and this organization and on me,” Buss said of LeBron. “He is somebody that I treasure, and I will protect. I have just enjoyed watching him play and nurture along his teammates and bring out the best in them. He really is the most unique person in the league today.”

Buss’ lengthy conversation with The Athletic touched on several more topics, including some past dysfunction in the Lakers’ front office, the team’s hiring of Frank Vogel in the spring of 2019, the trade for Anthony Davis, and much more.

The discussion is worth checking out in full, but here are a few more highlights from Buss, via Amick:

On prior front office dysfunction and how the Lakers addressed it:

“There were too many voices (in the room), too many leaks, too many people talking and not being on the same page. And so we took the offseason to shore those things up. We like to collaborate together, to be on the same page. It doesn’t mean just a bunch of people agreeing for the sake of agreeing. We like to hash things out, debate, just work through. So yes, the people that I rely on, that I trust — Rob (Pelinka) leading our front office, Kurt Rambis being an adviser, Linda Rambis who I’ve worked with for over 30 years. These are the people that I trust, and then bringing on a coaching staff that reflected those beliefs and that level of collaboration.”

On the scrutiny the Lakers faced following Magic Johnson’s surprise resignation last spring:

“We knew that when Magic stepped down from his position with the Lakers that — (and) while I’m still not exactly clear why (he stepped down), and why it had to be that day — we knew that the outside world would be questioning everything that we were doing and that we just kind of had to let it roll off our backs and just do the work. And we knew that that takes time.

On the acquisition of Anthony Davis:

“It was difficult. I think, probably for me, the hardest thing in this business is trading away players. … (But) it was really the right thing for us to do, because when you have somebody like LeBron James, and where he is in his career, you’ve got to go all in.”

On the Lakers filling out the rest of their roster in 2019’s free agent period:

“(It) was a little odd just because decisions were being, you know, kind of stretched long. But I think we recovered well from the delay. And you know, the roster that Rob Pelinka put together, really you’re now seeing what the vision was, because it is a versatile team that can go big, can go small, and that doesn’t really show until you’re in the playoffs. Well, we hadn’t been in the playoffs for so long it was really hard to see what the vision was and where we were going. But now that we’re in the playoffs, you can see how the versatility of the lineups (works). And that’s really a testament to our front office being led by Rob Pelinka.”

Lakers Notes: LeBron/Buss Dinner, WCF, AD, Lineup

Near the end of a rocky first season together, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and All-Star LeBron James sat down for their first dinner together at Wally’s Beverly Hills in March 2019, alongside James’ agent Rich Paul and Lakers executive Linda Rambis. It was here that the foundation was laid for this season’s relatively drama-free Lakers run in 2019/20, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

“We’re committed to you and we’ll come out of this on top,” Paul told Buss during the dinner, according to a conversation with Shelburne. “We’ll come out of this different than what the world sees. Let the people who talk, talk. We just gotta do the work.”

Shelburne notes that forging this more personal bond helped stabilize the club.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers’ competition in the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets, have earned the respect of Los Angeles’ marquee player, after coming back twice from 3-1 deficits in the 2020 playoffs, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN“It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit,” James said after a team practice today. “They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ball club.”
  • Lakers stars James and Anthony Davis have instilled a hardworking mindset that has proved effective this season among their teammates, per Mark Medina of USA Today. “They’ve been the rocks and heart and souls of our team all year,” power forward Kyle Kuzma said of LeBron and AD. “If we don’t do our jobs, they don’t have the success that they have.”
  • Los Angeles is ready to make lineup adjustments against the Nuggets to best handle Denver All-Star center Nikola Jokic, according to Tania Ganguli of the LA Times. Frank Vogel appeared to indicate that he’ll return to playing centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, who got minimal run during the Lakers’ more speed-oriented attack against the Rockets during the semifinals. Forward Markieff Morris, a solid three-point shooter, started at center in McGee’s stead during most of the Houston series. “In terms of how much we’ll use our centers, I don’t want to get too much into detail, but obviously we’re gonna be the L.A. Lakers, who we’ve been all year,” Vogel said. Starting center McGee is currently on the first year of a two-season, $8.2MM contract with the team, while reserve Howard is on a one-year veteran’s minimum deal.

Details On Kawhi Leonard’s Decision, Free Agent Meetings

Kawhi Leonard‘s camp spoke to the Raptors about the possibility of acquiring Paul George or Bradley Beal, Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star reports. The franchise considered the request, though Masai Ujiri & Co. began to believe in the final days leading up to Leonard’s decision that Kawhi, who was in Toronto from Wednesday to Friday, was not serious about rejoining the defending champs.

Leonard was focused on the Clippers even as his championship run with the Raptors was ongoing, Arthur writes. His camp gauged Jimmy Butler‘s interest in teaming up with him in Los Angeles throughout the postseason and the Clippers had planned to go after the pairing. Butler ended up landing in Miami and it appeared that the title and the inability to get Butler had closed the gap between the Raptors and the Southern California franchise.

The Raptors engaged in trade talks with the Thunder, though Arthur cautions that Toronto never came close to acquiring George and writes that Russell Westbrook was not involved in those discussions. It was previously reported that Westbrook and George both could have been included in a potential package to the Raptors. Westbrook was open to the idea of playing with Leonard, Arthur hears.

Here’s more buzz surrounding the Final MVP’s decision to move to California:

  • The location for the Lakers’ meeting with Leonard was switched last minute to Westlake Village and only owner Jeanie Buss and GM Rob Pelinka were there, as per Leonard’s request, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets. Shelburne adds that Leonard met with George near that location on the same day.
  • The Lakers knew their typical pitch, promising stardom and off-court fame, would not appeal to Leonard, Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times details. The team stuck to basketball in their hotel meeting with Leonard, attempting to sell him on winning a championship with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The meeting only lasted two hours.
  • Leonard and his uncle spoke to Magic Johnson prior to the Lakers‘ meeting, Ganguli adds. They had questions about Johnson’s recent comments on Pelinka where Johnson accused the former agent of betraying him. Johnson responded with praise for the organization and spoke highly of the Lakers’ front office. Johnson’s comments were not brought up in the Lakers’ short meeting, Ganguli hears.
  • The Lakers had no idea that Leonard wanted George as a teammate, per Ganguli. It was inconsequential, as Los Angeles had no real means of acquiring him from Oklahoma City since the club had already given up so many assets in the Anthony Davis deal.