Despite all of the failed trades and injuries, the Lakers are actually in a favorable position heading into the playoffs. For almost any other franchise, the Dwight Howard trade and inability to re-sign him would have been devastating. Trading for Steve Nash and having him play 60 games in two “supposed to be contending” seasons would be a catastrophe. Not that either was a good thing, but the Lakers have their first shot at a lottery draft pick since 2005. They also have a mountain of cap space coming off the books, giving them a shot to sign free agents or acquire talent via trades. The front office does deserve some credit for how this has gone, but as more time passes, the less Dr. Jerry Buss has his fingerprints over this team.
Right now the Lakers’ front office is fractured into two parts – the business (Jeanie) and the basketball (Jim) sides. All media reports that come out say the two Buss siblings don’t have a good relationship. At one point it was so bad that the two wouldn’t speak to each other, something fans hope is in the past. How can we expect the Lakers to be run wisely if the two most important people to the franchise aren’t on speaking terms?
Fans had been hoping the Lakers would swoop in and nab Phil Jackson before he made his way to the Big Apple. Nothing the Lakers have done in the past two years would have given me any reason to believe that the Lakers would hire Phil Jackson. When Phil first left, many of “his guys” were let go by Jim Buss in an attempt to put his own fingerprint on the franchise (not necessarily a bad thing). The choice came down to Jackson or D’Antoni and they decided that the coach who won 11 titles wasn’t the right choice to lead their stacked team to a title run. And now Phil has gone back to New York – even waiting as long as he possibly could, maybe to see if the Lakers would bite one last time. But they didn’t.
If Phil Jackson is the reason Jeanie and Jim aren’t able to get on the same page maybe his move to New York is actually a good thing. Because Jackson is no longer available, there can’t be the cries for him to come back. Fans will still say “You should have hired Phil,” but they do that all the time. Maybe this will finally give them a chance to come together and plan long term. Now that Jackson is gone, is there anyone else that fans would want to be hired in the front office? Aside from when Kobe retires, probably not.
Jim and Jeanie will now have to move forward knowing it is all on them. There isn’t the “Break in Case of Emergency” option of Phil Jackson any longer. The Lakers are going to be run by the Busses for better or worse. Its time for them to put aside any differences and work together constructively. If that can’t happen, the Lakers could be in for many more seasons like this one.