Even while the Lakers don’t seem to have themselves much together from the outside looking in, that doesn’t appear to have had much of an impact on the team internally, or at least not with the two most prominent and potentially influential figures within the franchise.
Team owner Jeanie Buss and superstar forward LeBron James have largely always been on good terms, dating back to a memorable dinner in LeBron’s first season with the Lakers that helped pave the way to a title-winning future. While LeBron and his agency Klutch Sports have had their war of words with the front office, that has never escalated to any LeBron vs. Jeanie storylines.
Even then, as the Lakers crashed out of the postseason entirely and Frank Vogel was fired in not so flattering fashion heading into an offseason where LeBron could sign an extension, it was fair to wonder how the relationship was between the two parties. But in a recent appearance on “Get Up,” Brian Windhorst of ESPN gave a peek at the current dynamic between LeBron and Jeanie.
“Well you’re shorting a few cooks in the kitchen, because Jeanie is also leaning on her brothers, Joey and Jesse Buss, who I’ve been told have sat in on at least some of the Zoom coaching interviews so far. But I will say that a lot of people around the league respect Joey and Jesse Buss’ opinions, so I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing, but that’s even more folks involved, and I don’t have clean answer for you on how the decision is going to get made because I do think Phil Jackson has had input on previous coaching decisions. I don’t think that this is necessarily a new thing. But from the LeBron side, as far as I understand... LeBron and Jeanie are in a good place right now. Despite the frustrations of the season, LeBron believes that a few tweaks and some health can actually turn this thing around and they can be super competitive. He is invested, wants to be there. Now, let’s see where it is in August. Because in August he has a decision — and so do the Lakers — about a contract extension, but there is some time between now and then.”
The talks about LeBron’s extension are going to dominate the headlines until August, as Windhorst notes. If he doesn’t sign a deal, then he will spend next season in Los Angeles will all of the discussion surrounding his impending departure and not on him chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the No. 1 spot all-time in scoring.
The good news is, as reported, for how rocky everything is, Jeanie and LeBron are on good terms. That doesn’t, however, mean he’s necessarily on good terms with the front office. While general manager Rob Pelinka stated during his exit interview that he and the Lakers had the sense LeBron wanted to remain a Laker, LeBron reportedly has not even discussed an extension with his own agency and Rich Paul.
Time will tell if LeBron is convinced by what the front office does in free agency enough to sign that extension. As good of terms as he can be on with Jeanie, if the front office can’t build a winner, LeBron won’t stay around. And if the front office can’t get the job done, it’ll likely be a result of too many chefs being in the kitchen with Phil Jackson the latest to be introduced.
For now, nothing indicates that LeBron is leaning one way or the other and, if anything, his relationship with Jeanie could be pretty easily pictured as a positive. But the pressure is still on the Lakers as they must make the right moves to keep their relationship with LeBron in that good place.