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.”