It's no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled the last several years. The team posted new lows for the franchise in terms of win-loss record for three consecutive seasons, missing the playoffs in all three.
There is optimism surrounding the team's young core right now, but Steve Delsohn of ESPN's Outside the Lines sat down with Lakers president Jeanie Buss for a wide-ranging interview as part of a larger video package on the Lakers' "turmoil at the top."
The full piece will air Sunday at 6 am on ESPN 2 and 7 am on ESPNEWS (both pacific time), but ESPN released the interview with Buss now, which you can watch on WatchESPN here.
Below is an edited transcription of Buss' most relevant comments, and you can check out our interview with Steve Delsohn (who put together the report) here:
On the Lakers' struggles the last few years:
Buss said the last three seasons "haven't been Laker basketball, but I believe with the leadership we have in Luke Walton, we'll get back to the kind of standard that my dad set."
On not being "part of that decision" to hire Mike D'Antoni instead of Phil Jackson back as head coach in 2012:
"I can only tell you from Phil's side, because I was at Phil's house when all this was happening, and for him because he was going through his cancer treatment, he needed to-- he met with the Lakers, he met with Jim Buss, he met with Mitch Kupchak-- he was interested in coming back, he was open to coming back, but he needed to be cleared by his doctors to make sure he wouldn't compromise his treatments, he wouldn't compromise his health.
"Because if he came back, it was important to him that he would be able to finish the job, and also, he asked for 48 hours. In those 48 hours, he met with his doctor, met with his family, and met with some of his former assistant coaches -- because if you recall, the team we had Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, we were in a position where people thought the Lakers had a really good shot to win the championship.
"His concern was he did not want to come back and lose in [the Finals].... He wanted to make sure he'd be able to beat Miami with LeBron James.... In that 48-hours, the organization decided to go in another direction, and hire Mike D'Antoni, which is completely within their right to do that."
On how she felt the way that process went:
"I was disappointed in the way it was handled, because we were asleep at midnight and the phone rings, and that's how he was woken up to be told that they had given the job to somebody else.
"I think that Phil has been a source of conflict for my brother and I, and certainly, that probably would be the crowning moment, the exact moment of where I was disappointed.
"But I think that now my relationship with my brother is better, because that source of conflict is no longer an issue in our process with the Lakers. So I think that now that Phil is out of the picture, my relationship is much better with my brother."
On not being "consulted about the hires or [the firings of coaches]":
"I've empowered [the front office] and expect them to do their job.
On whether or not she would be more comfortable being consulted or informed about moves like that beforehand:
"I like to think that I'm a team player, and that... I guess yes that would probably make me more comfortable, but I want the front office to be comfortable in however they operate, or whatever their process is, and if their process is to not include me to make those decisions, I want them to be able to do whatever they need to do to get the Lakers back to success."
On whether Kobe Bryant's contract hampered the team in free agency:
"We pursued free agents such as Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge, so I don't think Kobe's contract caused any problems. They had cap space and the ability to approach free agents who decided for whatever reason that they didn't want to come to the Lakers... but they had the flexibility to go after free agents, so I don't think Kobe Bryant was the cause of any reason why we couldn't draw players here."
On the perception free agents didn't want to play with Kobe:
"I would love to have any player come and tell me that they wouldn't love to come and play for one of the greatest players ever to play the game. I think that that was all rumor and speculation, and if there was any player that was afraid to play with Kobe, then I don't think they're Laker material."
On how she would rate the job Jim Buss has done with the Lakers:
"I think he would say that he wants to keep the standard that my father set, and that certainly the last three seasons hasn't reflected Laker standards, but I think he would say that he's working hard and htat he wants the team to be successful.
"Laker basketball that doesn't include playoffs is unusual. It's difficult to operate the business when we're not in the postseason, when we're not part of the conversation, so that part's been difficult, and I would prefer that our basketball team would be more what we've grown accustomed to or what we've provided to the fans.
“We entered a 25 year deal with our new broadcast partner in 2012, and one of the questions as part of the negotiations was they asked me "we know how you've run the team the last 25 years, will you run it the same way the next 25 years?' And of course I said 'yes, of course,' and I feel like we haven't lived up to that, I feel like when we're not part of the conversation in the postseason, that isn't what we had grown accustomed to for the previous 25 years.
“So that part is difficult, and I expect our front office to make that right and get things on track so that we can live up to that promise and we can live up to our fans. And I will do whatever I can to ensure the success of the Laker franchise for its fans and the community.”
On Jim Buss’ self-imposed deadline:
"He puts a lot of pressure on himself, and he said that if he can't get things going in the right direction that he would step down, and I think that that's a conversation that we shouldn't speculate about now. We have to see what happens with this season, I have confidence that we have the leadership in Luke Walton going forward. Certainly I will do everything that I can to make sure that the Lakers are successful, and that's all that I can promise.”
On if team doesn't start winning and Jim doesn't step down:
"I'm not going to speculate on whether the team is going to win or lose this season. You play the season to see how it goes, we need to see progress.”
When pressed on what she would do if the team struggled and Jim did not step down:
“I will do whatever I can to ensure the success of Lakers basketball, whatever it takes.”
All quotes transcribed via Outside the Lines. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.