Although the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office has endured heavy scrutiny in recent years, Jeanie Buss recently complimented the front office’s efforts in helping the team secure a title.
Following the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign, many people scrutinized the Los Angeles Lakers for missing the playoffs yet again. At that juncture, it marked a franchise-record sixth consecutive season where the purple and gold failed to secure a playoff spot.
As a result, the team took a lot of heat. Last summer a lot of folks argued that the Lakers were in a dysfunctional state and rightfully so. By the Lakers’ lofty standards, it was unthinkable to endure another losing season while missing the postseason in the process.
However, the criticism at the time also extended to the team’s front office. There were quite a few question marks there and perhaps the biggest one of them all was whether Jeanie Buss would ever be able to fill her father’s shoes.
Granted that may sound like an unfair comparison, Jeanie and her siblings were the ones entrusted to take over the franchise in the wake of her dad’s death in 2013. On that note, the high expectations were most certainly not going to merely fade away into the sunset.
During Jerry Buss’ tenure as the Lakers’ owner, the squad claimed ten world championships and won those titles via having some of the greatest NBA players ever. Buss knew talent when he saw it and did whatever it took to ensure the team would succeed.
Conversely, it seemed like ever since Jeanie took hold of the reins, the Lakers flopped when it came to convincing top-tier players to join the team. Despite the Lakers’ rich history and the bright lights of Los Angeles, it was no longer an adequate enough sales pitch.
Of course, the team’s fortunes changed in the summer of 2018 when then President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson helped lure superstar LeBron James to the City of Angels. On paper, it gave the Lakers that glitz and appeal again but as the 2018-19 season showed, even the presence of James was not quite sufficient.
Consequently, the question marks, therefore, emerged once again and some wondered whether the Buss family should sell the Lakers. The fact the Buss clan still owned the team merely looked like nepotism at its finest. Given that their head coach as of then was former Laker Luke Walton, it became all the easier to use the preferential treatment card on the Lakers.
Additionally, it is impossible to not bring up Rob Pelinka when the team’s front office is mulled over. While he was Kobe Bryant’s agent for many years, Pelinka did not have any experience as a general manager prior to joining the Lakers’ management group.
Thus, it would be a total fib if the following was not said. Traditionally, hiring someone who literally does not have experience in a given role is senseless. Absolutely senseless and it is all the more true in this case when the franchise was trying to reestablish relevance.
Without a doubt, it did not help matters at the end of the 2018-19 campaign when Magic haphazardly resigned from his job with the Lakers. It was as if he gave up on the Lakers, which was a bad look for the team from a man who helped them win five rings in the 1980s.
Due to all of the above-mentioned reasons, it was only practical for Lakers’ fans to chew out the team’s brass. The direction the team was headed in was dubious at best, and to venture to say the team had much of a direction a little over a year ago was even more unclear.
Notwithstanding the long road the Lakers traveled down, it is safe to say Buss’ naysayers have been put on mute. Granted those in the front office (including herself) have been distrusted by outsiders, she never lost trust in her vision. Much like her late great father, interestingly enough.
Even though the Lakers’ path to their 17th championship was one of the unconventional variety, Buss’ vision was a huger catalyst than many may realize. She has constantly been a beacon of support for those around her, and her trust paid off in a grand way several weeks back.
Frankly, subsequent to the 2018-19 campaign, a lot of people would have preferred for Pelinka to pack his bags and leave. That is how disgruntled Lakers’ fans were at that point in time.
Despite how impatient fans were, Pelinka was instrumental in building a contender this past offseason. He assembled a group that had plenty of depth, not to mention the blockbuster trade that sent superstar Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.
Certainly, that is really what helped turn this franchise around. A lot of patience was involved in constructing a roster with such depth and talent, but the job got done thanks to Buss’s trust in someone that many otherwise doubted.
Of course, it is also worth mentioning that Pelinka was responsible for bringing Frank Vogel aboard the vessel. While Vogel enjoyed success multiple years back as the coach of the Indiana Pacers, not everyone was confident he could be nearly as successful in L.A., the place where the lights shine at the absolute brightest.
Needless to say, the Debbie Downers were once again silenced in that regard as Vogel helped lead the group to its first championship in a decade. Vogel’s defensive-first mentality played a vital role along the way, and really became the backbone of the team.
While it is simple to just look at the players, the front office is worthy of praise for the job they did in getting the Lakers back to the promised land. They are the ones who put the requisite pieces in place to make this all possible.
Jeanie Buss conversed with Allen Sliwa of ESPN after the Lakers’ championship and shed light on the team’s front office. Per transcription from Corey Hansford of Lakers Nation, Buss revealed that they are a “very collaborative” bunch who are not concerned about receiving validation.
"“How we operate is that it’s a very collaborative group, and there isn’t any worry about who’s going to get credit. You know, we don’t have any leaks from any media network, so people are free to express their views without worrying that it will get out on social media five minutes later.”"
To hear just how well the front office gets along is encouraging. Along that same vein, it is every bit as promising to discover how seamless the communication is. In any business operation, it is important to be able to share opinions without feeling judged and the Lakers definitely boast that type of brand.
Moreover, Buss’ remarks concerning whom credit is given to are worth examination. They demonstrate that the Lakers are fully focused on this being a team enterprise at the end of the day, and that it is not about any single individual involved. Hence her intentional use of the term “collaborative.”
Per Hansford’s transcription, Buss drove that point home further by saying that the Lakers’ return to prominence was due to the fact that everyone was working toward the same goal.
"“We’re a group that works together, respects one another, believes in each other, and everybody does the work. That’s really been our mantra since trying to put the team back on this winning path, which was that it’s going to take time and we have to do the work. And that’s what we did, and the results speak for that work.”"
Jeanie’s comments are rather emblematic of a championship-winning recipe. Each and every person involved needs to be speaking the same language, or the mission could be a failure.
Thankfully in the Lakers’ case, the former proved to be true and it paid dividends. The Lakers are fresh off a record-tying 17th championship and the front office deserves some respect for putting in the work Buss touched on.
Not too long ago, doubters were rampant, but it is now not too far-fetched to make the contention Buss is one of the premier owners in the league. Rob Pelinka is capable of putting a championship-caliber group together, whereas Vogel proved to be an ideal fit for the Lakers on the sidelines.
Indubitably, the Lakers were in shambles a short while back and nobody knew what the future had in store. However, it is now reasonable to make the assertion that the Lakers are once again the number one destination franchise in the NBA.