The Los Angeles Lakers are in the early stages of their rebuild, but that hasn't lowered the pressure part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss has to turn things around quickly in Los Angeles. Jeanie Buss joined 89.3 KPCC radio and discussed the three-year window that her brother has to build the Lakers back into a contender team, and noted that one year has already passed on the timer.
That leaves two years for the Lakers to be back on their feet, and with the current trajectory, this doesn't appear to be a team on the brink of making a run at the championship. Julius Randle missed an entire year of development and experience because of his broken leg, Jordan Clarkson was a gem of a find but shouldn't be considered a player who turns the franchise's luck around just yet, and D'Angelo Russell hasn't even played a minute of Las Vegas Summer League basketball.
So what does "contending" mean? It's not just about making the playoffs . The Lakers have to at least make the Western Conference Finals, Jeanie told KPCC radio:
"Well, I asked my brother, how long until we're back into contention? And when I say 'contention,' that means past the second round, so either the Western Conference Finals or the NBA Finals. And he told me that it would take three years to rebuild it. So we've just finished Year 1 of that three-years. So we have two more years until he feels that we'll be back into going past the second round in the playoffs."
The Lakers are coming off of back-to-back years where they missed the playoffs and might be considered lucky if they even make the postseason within the next two seasons. The Western Conference remains stacked, and while they've made steps for their rebuild through the draft, they've yet to acquire established talent via trades or free agency. This is a group of players that are unproven, and should by no means be boxed into a position where the expectation is they reach the Western Conference Finals that quickly.
If push comes to shove, though, Jeanie expects her brother to be willing to step down if the Lakers aren't rolling again:
"This is my job. I'm part-owner of the team, but I'm also the president. The Buss family is the majority shareholder but we have other partners as well who are also shareholders, and I have an obligation to them. Would I make those changes? Yes. My brother understands that we have to continue to strive for greatness and I think he would be the first one to feel that he would need to step down if he can't get us to that point."
Jim Buss set the bar for his deadline, but Jeanie has referenced it several times since. It seems unreasonable to believe this group of young talent will have the time needed to develop and help lead the Lakers back to "contention," and with a free agency period sans any big-time talent acquisition thus far, that puts a huge burden on the front office to bounce back next summer.
If not, it might not be long before this three-year plan talk turns into more than just radio chatter.