Nobody ever said running the Lake Show was all championships and champagne. It takes hard work, determination and above all else vision to construct a title contender. Perhaps in all his years of seeing his father Jerry Buss deal with all the behind the scenes drama Jim Buss assumed these problems have a way of working themselves out. That is only true if you consider what helped to ease all that tension.
In recent years the Lakers were lucky enough to have the master manipulator Phil Jackson around to handle diva drama while also delivering titles. Years ago it was the dogged determination of Pat Riley that kept the off-court issues just that while keeping his team focused on the task at hand. Never forget that there was also a man named Jerry West who would routinely work round the clock to find solutions to lingering issues.
Once Dr. Buss took a step back, allowing his son Jim to get more hand in the Laker dealings, things changed drastically.
Jim Buss’ first order of business was to make sure all connections to Phil Jackson were taken away once PJ was gone from the organization. When it came time to find a replacement, Buss gave token interviews to Brian Shaw and Chuck Person knowing all along Mike Brown was his guy. While Brown has done a good job all things being considered, he is not at all equipped to handle Laker caliber drama. Brown had a hard enough time trying to stop his players from dancing on the sideline in Cleveland. How is he going to keep his team focused when his methods are being questioned and management is providing no solutions?
But Brown isn’t alone in his struggles to get more out of a roster with minimal depth. Mitch Kupchak is also facing dire circumstances in his quest to once again revamp a title contender. Chris Paul debacle aside, Kupchak didn’t exactly do much to help his own cause by unloading Lamar Odom for a next to nothing.
There are many that believe it was Jim Buss that ultimately gave the edict to move Lamar ASAP. Whatever the case it was one of the few times Buss was said to be present. According to multiple reports Buss is rarely seen around the Laker offices. His presence might not make much of a difference but it is painfully clear that some sort of front office leadership is badly needed.
As it stands the Lakers’ season is looking likely to unravel before our very eyes.
Players are openly questioning both the coaching staff and front office. That is never an indication of great things on the horizon. Even more troubling is that we’re talking about a group of players with championship pedigree. It’s not like this is some NBA bottom dweller that has more young lottery picks than veteran All-Stars. These are the Los Angeles Lakers. More professionalism is expected.
Early on it became clear that the Jim Buss regime was going to be a drastic departure from what we’ve seen in the past. Now those chickens are coming home to roost. While Dr. Buss might not have been as hands on as many other owners his presence was always felt. In addition he had enough sense to hire people capable of carrying out his orders. Instead Jim Buss has taken a heavy handed approach with little to no follow up.
For Jim Buss the time is now or never. He can roll up his sleeves and sort out some of this nonsense or he can avoid the office and instead spend his days laying out at Zuma. Despite what he might think NBA teams don’t run themselves. Players are paid to play, not to correct lingering issues. Buss’ assumption that everything will work itself out ignores one very important element – leadership from the top.
Things are definitely going to get much worse before they get better in Lakerland. That is clear. The real problem right now is that the bottom can’t be seen from the heights at which the franchise has been perched for so long. If Jim Buss continues his current approach we could see new lows for the Lakers.