Unlike Magic Johnson, when presented the opportunity to kick the Los Angeles Lakers while they are down, new Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams instead took the professional route, praising Jeanie Buss and the other representatives of the franchise he met with in a recent interview.
During a podcast appearance with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Williams was asked about his impression of the Lakers owner and organization based on his brief time talking to them, and kept things pretty political:
“When I spoke with the Lakers, the thing that impressed me more than anything was Ms. Buss, and her thoughtfulness, and how that particular team and organization is really a part of her DNA. When she talks to you about the team, she’s not only talking to you about basketball, she really is invested in those young men’s lives, and I saw that.
“It is the Lakers, it’s a traditional, foundational organization/institution of the league, and they have big shoes to fill. Mr. Buss was a trailblazer. So I see the burden, I saw the burden that she had, and she has. She wants to carry on the legacy of her dad, and when I spoke with her that resonated with me. I was like ‘this lady is for real.’
“So I’m no different than anybody else, I’ve heard some of the things that have been said about her, and I really feel bad about it because I didn’t get that. I saw a lady that really cares, and she really wants what’s best for the players involved, but also the organization.
“So for me, I didn’t have a bad experience. My talks with them, they helped me to learn more about another team, and for me it makes me better. It makes me more aware of the NBA as a whole.”
In all likelihood, Williams is answering these questions as politically correct and professionally as he could. There is simply no point in Williams retroactively trashing the Lakers or Jeanie Buss here, even if he feels differently than his actual response.
My one annoyance here is the continued trend of criticizing the reports of dysfunction when Magic Johnson’s surprise resignation, the hijinks at the trade deadline, the Lakers’ botched coaching search and Johnson taking a flamethrower to the organization’s inner-workings on national TV would seem to back up most of those rumors as objectively true. But that’s another topic altogether, that would likely take roughly 1,000 words to fully suss out.
In regards to Williams’ actual point, here, the criticisms of Buss have never been about her love of the Lakers. She has always come across as extremely sincere in that respect. No, the issue I and others have with her approach to running the Lakers has more to do with competency in those efforts.
The only way you could actually criticize Buss’ commitment to the team is in her apparent priorities. Rather than hire the most qualified candidates to crucial roles within the organization, she has chosen to stick with those closest to her. Her love of the Lakers and her priorities in running them are two different things, though.
Maybe one day, Buss’ priorities will align more closely with what is actually best for the Lakers, but until then, we’re stuck with Rambii. For the sake of this article, though, perhaps Magic could take a couple notes from Williams on how to handle these kinds of situations. Pretty wild that a guy who has no history with the Lakers whatsoever did less to damage the organization than one of its all-time greats.