The Los Angeles Lakers lost their 46th game of the season against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night, and the team is well on it's way to a third consecutive season not only in the lottery, but to set a new low for worst record in franchise history. All of these struggles have led to hot seats for not only coach Byron Scott, whom the team is reportedly "torn" on whether or not to fire this summer, but also for Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and the team's general manager, Mitch Kupchak.
Lakers president Jeanie Buss sat down with Jeff Zilgitt and Sam Amick of USA Today on the latest edition of their "A to Z Podcast," and the team's primary decision maker made it clear that she does not plan to attempt to lure her fiancee from New York back to his old stomping grounds on the West coast despite rumors to the contrary:
"It really isn't about trying to get him back here (to the Lakers)," Buss said. "He is happy with what he is doing, and he ... is up for the (Knicks) challenge, and he's seeing the results of the work that he's put in. But he has a ways to go."
Jeanie's comments line up with the recent report from Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News, who said there was a "zero percent chance" of Phil Jackson returning to the team this summer. While there is always the chance that Jackson could return if Jim Buss does not build a Lakers team that can get to the Western Conference Finals by next summer, for now it sounds like the Zen Master will remain in New York.
And as for that aforementioned self-imposed deadline Jim set for himself, Jeanie reiterated that she will hold her brother to that date, despite how unlikely it looks that he can reach it:
"I think that (Jim Buss) was very sure of himself when he promised that timeline, and I think that he has everything he needs to fulfill that promise of getting the team back competitive," Jeanie Buss said. "And when I say competitive, it's competing for the Western Conference Finals, which would mean at least second round (of the playoffs) - if not more ... They have earned the right to take the time that they've needed to put together what they want to have out on the court, and if they can't do that then we have to reexamine how things are going."
This is not the first time that Jeanie has reiterated Jim's deadline, and all indications are that she will hold her brother to it. The worry with such public declarations and a clear deadline is whether or not that threat of accountability will lead to Jim mortgaging the Lakers' future in an attempt to save his job.
The Lakers' young core looks promising, but barring a miracle won't be ready to get to the Western Conference Finals next season. So will Jim look to trade some of those players for more established veterans in an attempt to win now? Could he additionally overpay free agents this summer with contracts the Lakers will regret on the back end for short term gain?
Any of these moves would obviously be a positive if they led the Lakers to contention, but the likelihood of them doing so is small. What is far more likely is that such desperate gambits would lead to a small gain in the near term while ending up prolonging the amount of time before the Lakers are true contenders again.
While Jeanie's transparency on this issue is somewhat refreshing, it is also doubtful that it helps the team in any way. In fact, it arguably continues to fuel the growing perception that the Lakers are a sinking ship clinging to their history rather than a team in touch with what it takes to win in the modern NBA and voicing a clear plan to do so. The Lakers would probably be better off continuing with a slower, more natural rebuild, but the public pressure that Jeanie and Jim have brought upon themselves may lead to the team attempting to rush things, which could lead to further struggles for the once proud franchise.
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