Remember all those warm, gushy feelings we had at the time this article, comparing the Lakers to Game of Thrones in a somehow positive light, happened? Yeah, about that. Now, this is no Red Wedding, nor is today's Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding column any kind of doomsday prophecy that features a Cersei-like character losing all three of her kids. No, this morning's reading served as a friendly reminder that positivity should remain tepid anytime bad ownership is involved.
I won't give everything away because anyone even remotely interested in the Lakers should read Ding's piece, but here's a quick recap: Boo Jim Buss. Boo him and, now, boo Mitch Kupchak, too. Boo 'em all, and the other Buss siblings, starting with Jeanie and a whole bunch of other "J"-named kids are just innocent bystanders while Buss and Kupchak have run the NBA's premier brand into the mud.
I'm obviously exaggerating, but it was pretty hard not to get that vibe. Speculating on sources is rarely a great way to endears oneself to the author or the subject of such an article, but this column featured a shoutout to Jeanie Buss' dog, Cujo, who passed away. When a tidbit like that is included, it's hard not to piece two and two together to figure out where at least a portion of the information was coming from. Rest in paradise, Cujo.
The question begs asking, however: Why leak anything now, given the direction of the organization?
A cynic might point to the progress as a reason for the leak. If Jeanie were to hypothetically want Jim gone, progress on his part would obviously get in the way, right? So, what better way to stymy such momentum than to (1) send a reminder of what's at stake heading into free agency and (2) greatly hinder the organization's ability to sign free agents with a pretty blatant example of dysfunction at the ownership level.
How can any agent advise their client to sign somewhere where owners are literally positioning themselves publicly to have another
fired into the sun dismissed, regardless of how strong the Lakers' brand might have been previously? Again, this is a cynic's speculation, but given the timing of this, and if Jeanie is behind the leaks (not saying she most definitely is), this is probably something close to where she's coming from.
Further proof of where the leak might have been coming from is how childish the information seems to be. There was an entire section devoted to parents being statistically proven to have a favorite kid. I repeat: A column written about dysfunction at the absolute top level of a multiBILLION-dollar organization featured whether or not the long-passed patriarch of the family had a soft spot for one of his kids over the others. Those of you who have siblings: Remember when it felt like the whole world was against you because your bratty brother or sister got to ride shotgun that one time? Tuesday's article gave voice to that, but coming from (potentially) a 54-year-old billionaire.
"Again, I'm not saying Jeanie was definitely the leak, but why else would the author run with an angle based on the raising of children in multi-sibling households?
Finally, the tidbits on Phil Jackson stood out to me. Look at how he's described throughout the article. Words like "White Knight" and "practically family" are used to describe him. Not only that, the article even serves as leverage in case a move might be in the works for Jackson to return to Los Angeles on his terms, claiming "the Lakers want Jackson more than he wants them." Masterful work, really, by all involved. Jackson's PR guy, Roland Lazenby, got in on the fun Tuesday afternoon, tweeting "the team has become a joke." The joke, Roland, was Phil trading pieces away for Derrick Rose's corpse.
No one wins with this article. Jeanie looks spiteful and petty by even potentially leaking this information. Jim looks like a bumbling doofus focused on the stars in the sky or free agent market, while it's impossible to say which of the two are closer to within reach.
The timing of the article makes no sense, either, as the Lakers have somehow worked their way back into a favorable position with free agency just days away. Byron Scott has turned into Luke Walton, which should be a win of the highest order in and of itself. As I said the other day: There are legitimate reasons to be thrilled about the direction of the franchise.
That is, unless, you're whoever leaked the source material for Ding's piece today. Whoever provided the information isn't happy about the direction of the Lakers, nor how long it's taken to get here, under Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak's (who was somehow criticized for not wanting to share information about his dying daughter in the article) watch and guidance. If the leak is internal, there are issues with this organization I simply can't see them overcoming. Jeanie and Jim don't have to be besties to work together professionally. What they can't be doing is giving the perception of wanting each other gone. And even then, it's pretty rare you see shots fired at Jeanie the way there were today at Jim.
Example of how spin works: After LaMarcus Aldridge's free agency meetings with the Lakers, there were reports of Jeanie's business side of the meeting taking so long that they wound up needing a second meeting to explain the basketball advantages to signing with the Lakers. In today's article, Jim and Mitch as such:
If (Jim and Mitch) were great at their jobs, their demeanors would hardly matter. But they've failed to attract the free agents they said would be the key to rejuvenating the team. They've come across as vague and unprepared in some free-agent pitch meetings, especially compared to the strikingly deep, visually captivating presentations from Tim Harris, the Lakers' chief operating officer, about off-court opportunities.
Those public jabs do nothing more than to make the Lakers look petty and unrelenting in their inability to work together. Many a corporation have succeeded even while parts of those companies haven't necessarily liked each other. There isn't a particularly long list of successful businesses whose leaders went out of their way to stab each other in the back.
It's a Tuesday afternoon and free agency is set to launch into full swing sooner than anyone is ready for. The Lakers are reportedly interested in Hassan Whiteside among other elite talents. The last thing that should be on anyone's mind is whether or not the front office is on the same page, but articles like this imply they aren't in the book, series or medium, really.
The vibe around the team and with fans should be overwhelmingly excited at the possibilities, and I guess I still am, but with my guard up just a little higher than it was when I advised fans to welcome hope. As we saw in Sunday's Game of Thrones finale, all it takes is some careful planning and well-placed flammable substances to burn everything down.