Going back to the days of Jerry Buss’ ownership, the Los Angeles Lakers have traditionally always been willing to spend whatever it takes an more to chase championships.
Under the new CBA that level of spending been made a little bit more painful, as well as making it a lot harder to get numerous players on your team worth the money, and maybe that is what contributed to Johnny Buss’ fears about new Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
According to Johnny Buss (speaking in a larger feature story on his sister Jeanie Buss) he and his brother Jim’s infamous and brazen palace coup attempt against their sister was not a coup attempt at all, and merely a move made in order to get oversight over the team’s budget.
Why? Well, as Johnny Buss told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times in the piece, he was worried that Johnson might be too big of a spender:
Johnny maintains that his intention was never to usurp his sister’s authority. He says he worried that Johnson would spend too much in pursuit of a championship. He says he and his brother were aiming for a majority on the board to get control of the budget, but insists he did not know about the effort to elect a board without Jeanie.
“I immediately apologized to Jeanie saying, ‘Hey, look. This is not what I wanted. Please don’t include me in this,’” Johnny said. “Jeanie did not accept my apology. Decided to publicly string me up and you know, it was sad.”
If we’re taking Johnny Buss at his word here, this is interesting, because it essentially means that Jeanie Buss’ actions in fighting off that coup were in some ways a commitment to spending big.
Johnson so far has been open about the CBA not being his area of expertise, but just as forthright in his desire to learn about the document. Lakers general Rob Pelinka is by all accounts a CBA expert dating back to his days as a player agent. The Lakers seem to be in a position to understand the consequences of overspending, and the painful repeater tax for teams that overspend the cap three out of four seasons.
If Johnson spends just for the sake of having a decent team and not a great one, then yes that would be painful for the Lakers, with the CBA penalties making it hard for them to make the leap from good to great. But if the team is patient and waits for a time when they’re near contention to spend and Johnny Buss’ “fears” about Johnson and the new regime come true, we know that the Lakers won’t let money stand in the way of putting together or keeping together a title-contending team.