The Lakers missed the playoffs.
They fired their coach and have yet to replace him.
And controlling owner Jeanie Buss has remained largely in the background.
“Last year was extremely disappointing… it was hugely disappointing,” Buss told The Times’ Bill Plaschke in a wide-ranging conversation. “I feel like we let down Laker fans, and don’t want to do that again, and we’ve got to get it right.”
Here’s some of what Buss had to say:
Amid growing speculation that it would be in the Lakers’ best interest to trade LeBron James and get a head start on an inevitable rebuild, Buss indicated the team instead needs to do what it can to convince James to stay as long as possible.
Buss said she believes the Lakers can win another championship with James and Anthony Davis as their cornerstones.
“There’s no reason for me to think we can’t win with them,” she said. “Something that I learned from Phil Jackson is that there’s always a path to success. … Sometimes it might be a little bit harder than other times… but you have to see the ability. ”
Speaking of Phil Jackson
Yep, Buss has been hanging out with her ex lately.
But, she said, “it’s not anything romantic.”
Instead, Buss is picking the brain of a trusted friend – one who just happened to win 11 NBA titles as a coach, including five with the Lakers.
“He’s somebody that knows this environment and knows the challenges I have and wants to see the Lakers successful,” Buss said.
While we’re on the topic of trusted friends.
Magic Johnson is back in the loop as well.
Correct, the same Magic Johnson that abruptly resigned as Lakers president of basketball operations in April 2019, without giving Buss advance notice.
“Bottom line, the Lakers are important to him and he wants the Lakers to win, and he wants the Lakers to be on top,” she said. “I know that’s in his heart, and I trust him.”
So, Plaschke asked, is she relying on him again?
“Absolutely,” Buss said.
On holding her employees accountable… eventually
Buss made clear her frustration at missing the postseason after spending big bucks on a roster full of star players. She also made it clear that she holds her executives responsible.
“I’m growing impatient just because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league,” she said.
While such talk might make people like general manager Rob Pelinka shudder, Plaschke came away with the impression that the current staff will be given at least this summer and next season to clean up their mess.
But after that… watch out.
“If we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” Buss said, later adding, “I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.”
So that’s Buss’ call and not, say, LeBron’s?
Buss indicated that it’s “smart business” to “bounce things off” a team’s top player, but she shut down the notion that James and Klutch Sports are running the Lakers.
“Do they have final say? No. Are they running the team? No, no, not at all, ”she said. “I am controlling the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m held accountable for every decision that’s made here.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.