Jim Buss to blame for Los Angeles Lakers’ woes

By Spencer Brown

Going into Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers are 0-5.

Shocked? Well, you shouldn’t be.

The Lakers easily have one of the top-five worst rosters in the league. Worse than the Philadelphia 76ers, which is really bad, seeing as the Sixers have been so horrid that most pundits assume their strategy was to tank for draft picks.

Maybe the Lakers should consider tanking.

A better idea, they should tank (fire) Jim Buss, executive vice president and part-owner.

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    It seems like a cold thing to do considering the person who has firing power within the Lakers’ organization is Jeanie Buss, Jim’s sister and fiancé of the great Phil Jackson.

    However, as Jeanie made clear on several occasions in national television interviews at the start of the season, if changes have to be made to restore the Lakers’ to basketball glory, then changes will be made. The only chance that Jim has to remain in power is if Jeanie tries to respect the wishes of her late father, Jerry Buss. Jerry is the reason stars wanted to come to L.A. to play for the Lakers. His Lakers teams were always exciting and successful. We can only assume that Jerry wanted Jim to follow in his footsteps.

    It’s clear that Jeanie has the passion and shares the vision her father had. But who really knows about Jim?

    There are two parts to this narrative that is three years in the making: Jim and Kobe Bryant.

    The well-criticized Henry Abbott indicated rumblings within the Lakers’ organization that 19-year veteran and five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant was tearing the organization apart from the inside. Not to anyone’s surprise, Abbott’s source gave this information under the condition of anonymity. Go figure.

    It seems like a deflection from the real problem, and I’m willing to bet Jim Buss had something to do with that, but I’ll leave that conspiracy theory be. For now, I’ll examine the smoke screen attack on Kobe from the article and other critics.

    Kobe’s contract extension, in the range of $48 million over two years, hindered the Lakers cap-wise and affected their ability to go after a max contract player.

    Second, Kobe is too hard on teammates and no one wants to play with him.

    Third, no one knew what physical condition Kobe was going to be in once he returned from injury.

    All arguable points but all mistaken.

    Kobe does make a lot of money; however, under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Lakers have enough money to offer someone a max level contract. They offered Carmelo Anthony one this offseason.

    While Carmelo didn’t accept their offer, I don’t believe he refused because he didn’t want to play with Kobe. The fact is the team he was previously on was able to offer the most amount of money under CBA terms, therefore Carmelo stayed in New York. Somehow, that obvious piece of information gets lost in the fray when talking about the Lakers’ offseason.

    Also, who else was there to draw Carmelo in?

    Pau Gasol left to be on a contending team because Jim Buss wasn’t building one in Los Angeles. LeBron James was never going anywhere but Cleveland. Chris Bosh made $22 million more in Miami than the max the Lakers could have offered him.

    There were no free agents to attract, especially to a subpar team in a stacked Western Conference. Staying in the Eastern Conference for more money and exponentially higher chances of getting to the NBA Finals just makes more sense for marquee free agents.

    As far as what Kobe would bring to the court, everyone must admit that they were a little skeptical about what condition the Black Mamba would be in. Everyone must also know that you can’t bet against Kobe.

    Though he’s shooting the worst percentage of his career (.402 entering Sunday) he’s still averaging 27.6 points per game. His percentage numbers could be attributed to the lack of depth and playmakers on the team, which forces Kobe to hoist difficult shot after difficult shot. Considering the minimal talent and the injuries to Nick Young and Julius Randle, it’s amazing that Kobe actually shoots a respectable percentage at all.

    However, it harkens back to the real problem: Jim Buss.

    Joining Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup are Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill. Sorting through that lineup, no one stands out. For the names that are unfamiliar, they’re unfamiliar for a reason. For the names that are familiar, it’s not because of their unbelievable ability.

    Steve Nash was brought over and hasn’t played much basketball since his arrival. Jim hired Mike D’Antoni to build a team around the 40-year-old point guard, one that will not play this season but will make $9.7 million. D’Antoni, no longer with the team, was hired instead of Phil Jackson, ultimately a business decision that helped Dwight Howard scoot right out of California. The deals that brought Nash and Howard to Los Angeles cost the Lakers five draft picks.

    Mitch Kupchak, the general manager, should be held accountable for his part in this debacle as well. What must be understood though is that Kupchak answers to Jim Buss. Kupchak’s track record is not one of mediocrity. Jim’s fingerprints are all over this team.

    Hopefully, after this season, Jim will be in the same position as Lin’s backup, Ronnie Price: looking for work.

    Spencer is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].