All is Not Well in Laker Land


These are troubling times for the Los Angeles Lakers. Like the many collagen enhanced women that dot the beaches in SoCal, all is not as it appears.

On the court the Lakers are a franchise that has epitomized greatness. Many of the best to ever play and coach the game of basketball have been members of the Purple and Gold family. The same can be said for those that work tirelessly in the front office.

While the Lakers have long been viewed as a class organization there are telling signs of a classless regime taking over.

From the dismantling of all things Phil Jackson related to the dismissal of 20 employees, the word class is being used loosely around Laker Land these days.

The way that the entire Mike Brown hiring went down was the first warning sign. Jim Buss kept Kobe Bryant out of the loop then turned his back on Brian Shaw by showing him the exit in unceremonious fashion.

Shaw recently spoke out about the nature in which he learned of the Brown hiring. Now longtime Laker fixture Ronnie Lester is shedding more light on the dim dealings being conducted in the front office. In a piece penned by Broderick Turner, Lester opened up about the recent rash of firings the Lakers have conducted since the season ended. After 24 years of loyal service, Lester isn’t too pleased with how he and a slew of other longtime employees have been treated on their way out of Los Angeles.

“You think of the Lakers and you think they are a great organization. But if you work inside the organization, it’s only a perception of being a great organization. It’s probably not a great organization, because great organizations don’t treat their personnel like they’ve done.”

When word spread some time ago that Lester’s contract wasn’t being renewed it was a shock, plain and simple. Valued as a scout who later became assistant GM, Lester has been invaluable to the Lakers. Now he’s down to his last days in Laker Land and he can’t understand why. However there is a very telling quote in Turner’s article from Saturday’s Times.

“But I am curious about something. Why is it just the basketball operations people losing their jobs? That’s what I want to know.”

Lester’s pondering speaks volumes on the transition of power in the Buss household. Though Lester states Jim Buss isn’t around much it would appear his influence is omnipresent. Since the season’s unceremonious ending there has been no shortage of changes and shakeups around the Purple and Gold family.

Many have speculated that Jim Buss is trying to put his indelible stamp on the franchise. He seems hell bent on making this his team. Then when you consider how profitable the Lakes are and contrast it with the widespread layoffs of longtime employees a certain pattern begins to emerge.

Maybe all of these changes are for the best. Given the way the curtain came down on the Lake Show it was all but certain changes were coming. Still, there is something to be said for treating individuals with the respect they deserve relative to what they’ve done for the franchise.

No doubt there are tough decisions that are made daily in every line of business. When it comes to the Lakers there are certain standards that are expected to be met. With Jerry Buss in control there was always a sense of class even during times of turmoil. The same cannot be said for his son Jim.

Maybe Jim Buss is just learning the ropes and this is all part of the feeling out process. Unfortunately when you look at the big picture it seems more like this is just the way he does business. After all, it is Jim Buss who holds Andrew Bynum in such high regard. Considering the way Bynum punctuated the last season with his cheap shot on J.J. Barea then his recent parking preferences, it become clear why Jim Buss loves him so – they’re both lacking the class necessary to be Lakers.  Just ask Ronnie Lester.

Tags: Andrew Bynum Brian Shaw J.j. Barea Jim Buss Kobe Bryant Mike Brown Phil Jackson Ronnie Lester