Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations and owner Jim Buss ascended to his current position in 2005. Throughout his entire tenure, the Lakers have had Kobe Bryant to rely on for both on the court production and to put butts in seats at Staples Center. Soon that will come to an end, with Bryant entering the 20th and likely final year of his illustrious career.
Buss understands that Bryant's tenure is nearing its conclusion, telling Eric Pincus of the LA Times "We're going to approach [the 2015-16 season] like it is [Bryant's last]." However, Buss also allowed "that doesn't mean it is... I'm not going to sit there and say, 'This is it, Kobe, you're done,' because it's not my decision, it's his decision."
These quotes from Buss are unsurprising, after Bryant has had his last three seasons ended early by injuries and only played in 41 out of 164 possible games the last two seasons and his durability going forward is just one of the many question marks surrounding this season's Lakers team. But all of that missed time due to injury does not mean that Buss regrets giving Bryant a 2-year, $48 million extension the team gave Bryant in 2013:
"The man has done so much for the Lakers and the fans of the Laker nation, he deserves the money," Buss said. "I don't understand anybody trying to break down what I did for him. Let's break down what he did for us, then say, what is he worth? To me, he's worth that."
Buss also went on to tell Pincus that Bryant would be welcomed back with open arms past this season as long as he understands "at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role?"
In addition to his thoughts on Bryant, Buss also told Pincus in their wide ranging interview that he thought Byron Scott has "has the Laker blood in him," that Julius Randle has looked like a "beast" in workouts with ex-NBA players, as well as what he thinks of the progress of sophomore guard Jordan Clarkson, why the team drafted D'Angelo Russell with the second overall pick, and how he will measure progress for the Lakers this season. The whole thing is worth a read.