Few other topics have dominated the NBA playoffs thus far in bigger ways than everyone trying to figure out whoever the hell is actually in charge of the Los Angeles Lakers. And the Lakers aren’t even in the playoffs.
There has been speculation of shadow executives (some even potentially employed by other teams), shadow presidents, shadow owners, shadow shadows and everything in between.
With all these rumored shadows, perhaps one investment the Lakers could consider is one in lighting. Just a thought.
Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin of ESPN put together a piece detailing what they know about the inner-workings of the Lakers and in it, finally divulged quite possibly the most we’ve learned about Linda Rambis to this point:
Jeanie Buss respects advice from senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis -- Linda’s husband and a former Laker -- as well as Johnson, Bryant and Phil Jackson. But it’s Linda Rambis’ opinion Buss has long valued the most, according to league and team sources. Many believe Buss has leaned on Rambis even more after Johnson blindsided the organization with his resignation.
Based on this, it’s not at all outrageous to think that Linda (and by extension, Kurt) Rambis have more power within the Lakers organization than Rob Pelinka, the team’s general manager.
The logical question to ask here is: How in the world does this happen? How does someone whose only qualifications for this job is “being besties with the owner” assume so much power that she and her husband could potentially be overriding the guy Jeanie Buss hired to run things?
Well, it’s actually fairly simple. At one time, the Lakers had strong voices in the room (Dr. Jerry Buss, Jerry West, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Mitch Kupchak, etc.) that assumed all the decision-making power for the basketball side of the organization. There wasn’t space for anyone as unqualified as Linda Rambis to offer her two cents, let alone wield actual organizational power. But as those voices dissipated (Dr. Buss died, West and Riley left, Jackson retired, Kupchak went down with the SS Jim Buss), they left behind them a power vacuum that went either unfilled, or Jeanie Buss assumed altogether.
As Jeanie Buss took on all that power by way of the aforementioned departures, and then solidified it via a successful coup to oust Jim Buss, she started dolling it out. Apparently, the person at the very top of that list of suddenly power-imbued beneficiaries has been Linda Rambis, who then brought Kurt Rambis into the mix and here we are, rooting for a team apparently run by a couple Rambii and a Buss.
Now, in recent years, Jesse and Joey Buss have assumed a little more power on the margins of the organization, but Phil Jackson making his way back into the fold in the way he reportedly did during the Lakers’ search for a coach likely means they will remain on the peripheries for the foreseeable future.
This is the Lakers under Jeanie Buss. Qualifications or prior success in the roles she hires people for don’t matter, and if those kinds of things do, they are much further down the list of her priorities than her personal comfort with the people she employs.
It’s no coincidence whatsoever that the Lakers are uneasy about the amount of leverage LeBron James has earned for himself and his camp over the course of his career. It should surprise no one that someone so capable of bending the league to his will would make Jeanie Buss and her inner circle uncomfortable.
No one should therefore be surprised that there is a chance some in the organization might prefer James be sent packing — as was first rumored in the previously linked article but whispered about and hinted at by various media people since — because his very presence challenges all the work they’ve done to slide into the varying amounts of power within the Lakers that the Rambii, Jackson and even Pelinka have.
Linda Rambis’ relationship with Jeanie Buss is nothing new. Their friendship dates back to when Buss was a teenager. What’s different now is how aware fans are of her presence and, apparently, the amount of power she holds currently, thanks in part most recently to Magic Johnson’s departure.
While the inclination here is to hold Linda and Kurt Rambis, Jackson or really anyone else accountable for the current state of perpetual chaos the Lakers are engulfed in, the onus really lies with Jeanie Buss, who empowered all those people in the first place.
Jeanie could’ve had her choice of many top basketball minds if she opened up a full candidate search to fill out the organization. She to this point has chosen not to do that, instead sending a message to fans that her personal comfort comes before what’s actually best for the team. So long as that remains the case, pull up a chair, grab some popcorn, and try to laugh your way through the pain.
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