Jim Buss

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Green, Cousins, Cauley-Stein

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant played a key role in bringing LeBron James to Los Angeles this summer, Sam Amick of The Athletic reveals in a new story.

Bryant, who spent his entire 20-season career with the Lakers, met with team owner Jeanie Buss in February of 2017 to deliver strong advice: Shake up the front office, start new and bring a new culture to the franchise.

“Jeanie, I know who we’re trying to get; we know who we’re trying to get, so that player is not going to come here with all of this s–t going on,” Bryant said, according to Amick. “It’s not going to happen. So if you do want to have that focus, and go after that player, then I’m telling you that you’ve gotta clean house, and you’ve gotta just reshuffle the deck and start anew. You have the new practice facility (the UCLA Health Training Center) that we’re just moving into (in the summer of 2017). We’ve got new management, and off we go. But that player is not coming here unless you do that.

“As a player, it’s like, listen, it’s a cultural thing. You’ve got to have the right culture around, especially for him at this stage of his career,” Bryant explained. “You don’t want to come to a team and deal with a bunch of bull—-, right? You don’t want to come here and be part of an organization where the walls are talking and stuff is getting out left and right and you have this camp and that camp. You don’t want to do that. So I said, ‘You’ve got to start anew.’”

Buss listened to Bryant’s advice, firing older brother Jim Buss and letting go of general manager Mitch Kupchak. In turn, the team promoted Magic Johnson to president of basketball operations and hired Rob Pelinka as new general manager. Fast forward to July of 2018, and the new-look Lakers convinced James to sign a free-agent contract.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

Lakers Rumors: Young, World Peace, Kobe, Mozgov

Now that the Lakers have played their final regular season game of 2016/17, the first offseason in Rob Pelinka‘s tenure as general manager is underway. As Pelinka said earlier this week to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, it will be an interesting one in Los Angeles, since there are so many uncertainties surrounding the club, starting with whether or not it will keep its top-three-protected pick.

“There are a lot of uncertainties,” Pelinka said. “Do we have our draft pick in June, or do we not? What free agents do extensions? What free agents become true free agents? What players from other teams are teams going to think about trading? There are millions and millions of combinations. It’s almost like a Rubik’s Cube. If you’re trying to solve it, there are many different combinations and turns you could make to get to the end path. You have to really study that board hard and make all the right turns to get there, but there is likely more than one way to get to the end.”

As the Lakers mull their summer options, let’s round up a few more notes on the club…

  • Although Nick Young remains undecided on his player option, he suggested today that he may prefer joining a playoff team rather than being one of the lone veterans on a young team, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. As Mark Medina of Los Angeles Daily News tweets, Young also joked that if the Lakers end up drafting Lonzo Ball, it might be too much for the team to have to deal with the “Ball family and Swaggy P talking crazy.”
  • Speaking today to reporters, including Pincus (Twitter link), Metta World Peace said president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told him the Lakers probably won’t re-sign him this summer. World Peace said earlier this week that he hopes to play two more professional seasons, but he sounded less certain today about his plans going forward.
  • After initially taking an inside look last month at the legal drama surrounding Jeanie Buss and her family, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com digs back into the story and updates her initial report with new information and quotes from Buss. Shelburne’s newest story on Lakers ownership includes a handful of interesting new tidbits, including one on how Jim Buss tried to offer Kobe Bryant shares in the franchise last year without realizing that the family trust didn’t allow for such a move.
  • After being rested for several weeks to end the season, Timofey Mozgov isn’t yet sure what his role will look like next year, but he’s hopeful that he’ll start 2017/18 as L.A.’s starting center, per Medina.

Latest On Lakers’ Buss Family Legal Battle

Less than a month after reports indicated that Jeanie Buss had thwarted an attempt by her brothers to take over control of the Lakers, the team’s controlling owner won another victory that will ensure he holds her position atop the franchise’s hierarchy.

As Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times reports, Jeanie Buss and her brothers, Jim and Johnny, have agreed for Jeanie to serve as the club’s controlling owner and head of the board of directors as long as the family owns the Lakers. As part of a legal agreement, Jim Buss – who had been involved in Lakers roster decisions up until he was displaced from that role last month – has agreed to resign as a co-trustee for the four trusts through which the Buss family owns 66% of the franchise.

[RELATED: Rob Pelinka discusses Lakers, GM role, free agency]

Jim Buss will continue to serve as one of the Lakers’ co-owners, but did not receive any sort of financial settlement in exchange for resigning as a co-trustee. Another Buss sibling, Janie, has replaced Jim in that role, joining Jeanie and Johnny Buss as co-trustees, per Fenno.

“Jeanie is captain of the ship,” Janie Buss told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “My sister is the one who finally played her aces. I’m just behind her. I’ve always been behind her. Now she can focus on where the Lakers need to go. … This is a new beginning for us as a team. Now we don’t need to worry about this family stuff. We can focus on the Lakers now.”

Jeanie Buss’s attorney, Adam Streisand, spoke to Fenno and conveyed a similar message regarding the Lakers’ controlling owner: “The message is clear here: Do not underestimate Jeanie Buss. There is not going to be a palace coup. Not now. Not ever.”

A court date had been set for May 15 when it appeared that the family would wage a legal battle, but now that an agreement has been reached, that court date has been scrapped.

Lakers Rumors: Brewer, D’Antoni, Zubac, Pelinka

Veteran swingman Corey Brewer hasn’t been sulking over the trade last month that sent him from the contending Rockets to the lowly Lakers, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Coach Luke Walton credits Brewer for being a positive locker-room presence and helpful hand during film sessions despite losing out on a chance to play in the postseason. “He just has a great energy about him,” Walton told Feigen. “He makes the locker room a more enjoyable place to be. He’s been very pleasant to have around since the trade.”

In other news involving the Lakers:

  • Former coach and current Rockets head man Mike D’Antoni has only good feelings toward former GM Mitch Kupchak and previous executive vice president Jim Buss, Mark Medina of the Orange County Register writes. D’Antoni said Kupchak and Buss were fully supportive of him during the two seasons he coached the team, Medina continues. “They did everything for me they could possibly do. There’s nothing else to ask of them,” D’Antoni told Medina. “It was a tough time. We had to deal with a transition period and injuries.”
  • Rookie center Ivica Zubac has been one of the season’s few bright spots and he’ll remain in the starting lineup the rest of the season, Medina reports in a separate piece. Zubac, 19, posted a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds in his third start on Monday against the Nuggets. The team is thrilled with his development, Medina adds. “Zu is a very skilled player,” Walton told the assembled media. “It doesn’t surprise me when he has nights where he’s making shots.”
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey believes president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka will be a formidable duo in the Lakers’ front office, Medina relays in another story. Morey was impressed how Johnson conducted himself as they negotiated the deadline deal that brought Lou Williams to Houston. He also felt Pelinka, who represented James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon, was one of the league’s top agents. “When you come from different backgrounds, sometimes that gives you an edge as you come in a new role,” Morey told Medina. “I like the concept. Magic did the smart thing in pairing up with him. I think it’s going to be a good team.”
  • Pelinka told the players that he will be open about the franchise’s direction and ask for their input during individual meetings after the regular season ends, Medina notes in a story posted by the Los Angeles Daily News. “They want us to know what their plan is for the future,” Zubac told Medina. “Whatever we want to find out, good or bad things, we’ll find out when we speak to him. That’s really good we’re involved with him.”

Lakers Notes: Walton, Old Trades, Draft Picks

There are a few areas that the Lakers will need to address as Rob Pelinka tackles his new role as general manager of the franchise, but head coach isn’t one of them. In fact, the presence of Luke Walton on the payroll could be an asset for the organization, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Everyone loves you,” Pelinka said to the Lakers coach at the press conference when his hiring was formally announced. “You have this genuine honesty and coolness about you that just makes every player in the league want you to be their coach.

Walton spoke about his new boss’ support at practice, mentioning the benefits of knowing that the front office supports him. “It gives you the confidence to make the decisions you feel are best for the team,” Walton said.

There’s more from the Lakers:

  • When Jeanie Buss opted to hand the keys to the Lakers over to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka rather than her own brother Jim Buss and long-time general manager Mitch Kupchak, it showed that loyalty matters more than family, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report writes.
  • Though reluctant to commit to a timeline, newly hired general manager Rob Pelinka insisted that the Lakers need to be aggressive in their rebuild and “get better talent for Luke Walton to coach,” Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote in a separate piece.
  • In a column published Friday, Mark Heisler of the Orange Country Register wonders if the Lakers forgot to tank. Heisler reminds readers that if the Lakers pick falls out of the top three this year, they lose it (on account of the Steve Nash trade) — otherwise they lose next year’s pick. Should they lose this year’s pick and retain next year’s pick, they would lose their 2019 first-round pick due to the Dwight Howard trade and the Ted Stepien rule. Check out the column for more details.

Lakers Rumors: Magic, Buss Family, Cousins

The Lakers officially named Magic Johnson an advisor at the start of February, but in the weeks leading up to his promotion, Johnson wasn’t being kept apprised of the goings-on in the team’s front office, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. As Shelburne details in her inside look at the Lakers’ front office shakeup, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak continued to run team business without integrating Johnson or even informing him of what they were planning.

In one case, that meant conducting a workout with Larry Sanders without inviting Johnson to attend. It also meant that Johnson had to inquire about trade calls on his own, since Buss and Kupchak weren’t telling him about them, let alone asking his opinion. The fact that Johnson wasn’t been involved in the decision-making process was one reason why president Jeanie Buss felt it was necessary to make a change just days before the trade deadline, writes Shelburne.

Let’s round up a few other Lakers items, including more from Shelburne’s piece…

  • Another key factor in Jeanie Buss‘ decision to oust Jim Buss and Kupchak in favor of Johnson was the way DeMarcus Cousins talks with the Kings were handled. According to Shelburne, Johnson received a call from Sacramento GM Vlade Divac, but since Magic was still just a consultant at that point, he referred Divac to Buss and Kupchak. Divac wanted to move quickly on a Cousins deal and was meeting with Pelicans GM Dell Demps in person at the All-Star Game in New Orleans, but could only talk to Buss and Kupchak on the phone, slowing negotiations.
  • As Shelburne explains, Jeanie Buss wanted a heads-up if the Lakers were discussing any of their three previous lottery picks – Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, and Julius Randle – in trade talks. The talks with the Kings involved two of those three players, but Jeanie and Magic were kept out of the loop until Sacramento had essentially finalized a deal with New Orleans.
  • According to Shelburne, the Jazz had offered a first-round pick for Lou Williams before Johnson took over as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, but that proposal was off the table by the time he was promoted.
  • Shelburne’s piece includes several more interesting items about Lakers ownership, the tension between the Buss brothers and Johnson, and a possible role for Kobe Bryant, among other topics, so it’s worth checking out in full.
  • Speaking of Kobe, the future Hall-of-Famer publicly endorsed the Lakers’ choice of his former agent Rob Pelinka for general manager (Twitter link). Head coach Luke Walton is “excited” to begin working with Pelinka, as Mark Medina of The O.C. Register details.
  • Legal experts say that Jeanie Buss is well positioned to retain control of the Lakers franchise even if her brothers attempt to oust her, writes Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. Shelburne’s report suggests that Janie Buss believes Jim and Johnny Buss hope to eventually cash out.

Lakers Notes: Johnson, Russell, D’Antoni

There are plenty of benefits to having an individual of Magic Johnson‘s stature calling the shots for the Lakers, writes Sam Amick of USA Today but there is no consensus on whether or not that will be enough to push the franchise back to its former heights.

If you have a free agent sitdown with a superstar, and Magic Johnson is in the room, that’s going to move the needle as far as getting that guy serious about wanting to come here,” says former player Dell Curry of the Lakers icon. “[…] He built his way up, built his brand once he got here. Being in LA, having Magic and all the doors he can open for you off the floor, that’s even more incentive for superstars to want to come here.

Unlike other players who’ve returned to manage the teams that they played with, Johnson has a high profile in both the basketball and business world. Only Michael Jordan rivals Johnson’s total package but he faces the tougher task of drawing players to small market North Carolina whereas the city of Los Angeles is practically a selling feature in itself.

Still, Johnson’s contributions will eventually be measured in the amount of star players he’s able to recruit to the Lakers, Amick writes. If he airballs as the recent front office has with players like Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant, he’ll be little more than yet another former player learning on the job.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • A recent uptick in D’Angelo Russell‘s production can be traced back to improved work habits coming out of the All-Star Break, writes Mark Medina of the Orange County Register. “Sometimes when you get away for a week, especially when you’re young, you come back rejuvenated a little bit and a little more fresh than when you’re in the dog days leading up to All-Star,” says head coach Luke Walton.
  • It’s hard for anybody to resist the temptations of college basketball this time of year and for Lakers head coach Luke Walton, that’s no different. Don’t think that Walton is already setting his sights ahead on the draft, however, as Mark Medina for the Los Angeles Daily News writes. “We have a whole scouting department that has been watching them all year,” Walton explained. “We got European scouts. When the time comes, we’ll take the appropriate amount of time to sit down and actually watch it from more of a scout’s view.”
  • The fact that the Lakers haven’t gone out of their way to credit former general Mitch Kupchak for his contributions during his three decades with the organization is petty, says Anthony Irwin of SB Nation’s Silver Screen and Roll. The scribe explores Mike D’Antoni‘s recent comments that Kupchak and Jim Buss (also recently dismissed) “were not the problem” during his time in Los Angeles.

Jeanie Buss Prevents Brothers’ Attempt To Take Over Lakers

10:02pm CST: Jim and Johnny Buss’ lawyer, Robert Sacks, told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN that they were never trying to oust Jeanie as controlling owner. To the contrary, Sacks says, Jim and Johnny have informed Jeanie “orally and in writing” that they support her as the controlling owner of the Lakers (Twitter links). Sacks added “I can tell you, Jim Buss and Johnny Buss, as co-trustees, who vote shares in the Lakers, support Jeanie as the controlling owner.” (Twitter link)

5:29pm CST: Jeanie Buss has thwarted initial attempts from her brothers, Jim and Johnny, at a takeover of franchise control, according to a report from Nathan Fenno and Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times (article link). Jeanie Buss’ attorneys sought a temporary restraining order Friday to prevent the brothers from holding a meeting to elect a new board of directors.

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Jeanie Buss’ restraining order alleged that Jim and Johnny “were acting in breach of their fiduciary duties as trustees.” Jeanie’s lawyers pushed for a trial to resolve the matter, and a court date has been set for May 15 (Twitter links).

On February 21, Jim Buss was relieved of his duties as executive VP of basketball operations, being replaced by Magic Johnson. At the time, Jeanie Buss announced “Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Johnny Buss remains the head of corporate development for the Lakers, and- per Fenno and Plaschke- notified Jeanie of his intent to elect a new board of directors three days ago. Jeanie Buss’ lawyer, Adam Streisand, delivered a statement in response to the attempted coup.

“This is no doubt the beginning and not the end of the game-playing,” Streisand said. “They don’t have a legal leg to stand on. This is a legal strategy doomed for failure.”

Lakers Finalizing Deal To Hire Rob Pelinka As GM

The Lakers are finalizing a multiyear deal that will see Rob Pelinka assume the role of general manger, says Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. With the February 23 trade deadline less than 48 hours away, the player agent will necessarily “start soon.”

[RELATED: Lakers restructure front office; Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss out]

Citing a need for an individual with a comprehensive understanding of the CBA, salary cap and modern NBA, newly hired president of basketball operations Magic Johnson made the decision to bring Pelinka aboard to fill the vacancy opened up when Mitch Kupchak was relieved of his duties earlier today.

While Pelinka is expected to handle day-to-day matters for the Lakers, Johnson figures to retain the final say on roster moves and other major decisions.

As we discussed in a post earlier today when Pelinka was being floated as the frontrunner for the job, the long-time agent will need to divest himself from the representation business. While Pelinka represents many current NBA players, including MVP candidate James Harden, his most notable client in relation to his new role is former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Such familiarity with the Lakers enterprise will suit Pelinka well in his new role, tweets Wojnarowski.

Pelinka has no previous front office experience but that didn’t dissuade Johnson from making the decision. Per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, Johnson referenced the recent success of Bob Myers and the Warriors when asked if such a dearth of experience could be an issue.

More DeMarcus Cousins Trade Fallout, Reactions

A player of DeMarcus Cousins‘ caliber doesn’t get moved often, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of notes, reactions, and details to round up after the deal got done. On Monday, we published a pair of posts that covered some of the fallout from the deal. We’ve got more to cover today, so let’s dive in…

  • In a piece for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor examines the ripple effect of the Cousins trade and explains why Vivek Ranadive‘s fondness for Buddy Hield resulted in a deal with the Pelicans. A source tells O’Connor that the Suns were willing to offer multiple first-round picks – including one or both of their selections from the Heat – and that the Nuggets were believed to be willing to part with anyone except Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray for Cousins.
  • Pursuing Cousins was a last-ditch attempt by Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak to save their jobs with the Lakers, according to Sam Amick of USA Today (via Twitter). Amick adds that Buss “really wanted” Cousins, though Kupchak handled the talks with Sacramento. Those discussions came to an end when L.A. was unwilling to include Brandon Ingram.
  • Cousins got emotional last night as he tried to say goodbye to Sacramento (Twitter video link via Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140). Cousins told Sean Cunningham of ABC10 (Twitter link) today that he’ll always love the city, and plans to remain a presence in the community. According to Cunningham (via Twitter), Cousins also said today that he still hasn’t talked to Kings GM Vlade Divac — it sounds like that may not happen.
  • The Pelicans have now paired two Kentucky stars in their frontcourt, but don’t expect John Calipari to make the move to the NBA to coach Cousins and Anthony Davis. Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show this week, Calipari was asked in jest if he might end up in New Orleans, and the Kentucky head coach shot down the idea, saying that’s it’s “not happening” (link via The Detroit News).