It’s never quite simple with the Los Angeles Lakers, for better or for worse. There is no moves without drama, no news cycle without a Lakers twist, and like so much other Los Angeles entertainment, the Lakers coverage can feel downright scripted.
In the latest chapter, Jim Buss and Johnny Buss attempted a coup to unseat Jeanie Buss from her seat on the Lakers’ board of directors and being the controlling owner of the team. I am not qualified to discuss the legal merits of this case, nor do I fully understand it, but this much I know: Jim Buss has ruined any semblance of sympathy and positivity from the Lakers fan base.
I for years had advocated that while Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss had made mistakes, I found a method to their madness and believed they didn’t deserve the level of skepticism that they were receiving nationally. After this summer, however, and just weeks before they were removed from their positions, I acknowledged it was time to move on. With Jim Buss’ actions after being ousted, Jeanie Buss has proven to be even more justified than imagined.
There’s a few reasons why what Jim Buss attempted is foolish, but I’ll start with the miscalculation from his very selfish perspective. Like Sam Hinkie after his removal, Jim Buss was poised to a couple of years from now get posthumous credit for the growth of this young core. Now? That’ll go directly to Mitch Kupchak* and Mitch Kupchak only, who has remained silent. For him to not understand his standing both with Lakers fans and the NBA partners as a whole to think that there would be any support for him ousting Jeanie is a flagrant misreading of the NBA landscape, perhaps the same misreading that resulted in the Deng and Mozgov deals.
*As an aside, Mitch Kupchak remains extremely classy and deserved a much better send off. Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson not even mentioning him during their Spectrum SportsNet interview was a huge mistake and I hope they rectify this as things get less raw.
Next, what exactly did Jeanie Buss do other than oblige to Jim’s own stupid deadline? Jim Buss has made many mistakes during his tenure, as do all executives, but this was his biggest error. You reap what you sow, and Jim Buss is no exception.
Now, to the actual matter of his legal coup. There are a few outcomes here that would’ve been possible (there could be more, I’m not a lawyer - I just play one on TV):
- Jeanie is forced out, Jim Buss takes control of the organization, and the tumult in the organization continues.
- Jim fails, adding insult to the already acrimonious way he exited
- The Buss family is forced to sell
You know what all of these things do? Damage the Lakers reputation, make the Buss family look incompetent and hurt the image that Dr. Jerry Buss created, with almost no upside. For this, Lakers fans will never forgive him. Jeanie Buss may have made some tepid statements over the years about the state of the organization, but in general she stayed quiet (sometimes too quiet for a segment of the fanbase) and never spoke out against Jim. It’s time for Jim to return the favor.
Again, I keep coming back to this simple point: if Jim Buss has an ounce of savvy, isn’t the best outcome to sit back and say “I told you so” when Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell etc pan out?
What Jim has done is insulting on many levels but what I can’t get past is how illogically this whole situation has been handled by him and how it reflects on his judgment. This is the first major action Jim has made without Mitch Kupchak at his side and it shows.
Here’s also why I ultimately believe that the Lakers will get through this roadblock just fine: Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson’s swift actions to fortify their organization will pay off in a big way. Rob Pelinka is the General Manager, Luke Walton is the head coach, Magic Johnson is in charge and despite all of the chaos that’s ongoing at the ownership level, this is the first time that the organization has been fully aligned in a few years.
There may be reasons to be skeptical about Jeanie Buss’ basketball credentials, but there is no doubt she has earned her position as being the primary owner of the team and if I have to bet on her or Jim, the decision has never been easier.