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Podcast: Jim and Jeanie Buss' relationship, Phil Jackson, third arms, Coen Brothers superheroes

Posted by on Aug 17, 2013 in Jeanie Buss, Jim Buss, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Jackson, Podcast | 10 comments

If we learned one thing from Ric Bucher”s profile of Jim and Jeanie Buss and , it”s that the siblings have a working relationship remaining a long way from simpatico. Which means, of course, we learned nothing, because this has been public knowledge for years. Still, some interesting details emerged, worthy of a conversation.

Among the talking points:

  • Were the Buss siblings better at keeping any philosophical disagreements behind closed doors, would it necessarily matter if they don”t see eye-to-eye? Fundamentally speaking, their jobs don”t contain a lot of overlap.
  • It”s impossible to overstate just how big a professional and personal adjustment learning to function without Dr. Buss remains for the Lakers organization and the Buss children.
  • Jim still finds himself taking crap for mistakes or dumb comments made 10 years ago. Will he ever be able to shake the poor narrative? (Hint: Not if he doesn”t stop wearing baseball hats.)
  • Jeanie has absolutely earned her goodwill and respect among the Laker fan base, but there are some inherent and incredibly valuable advantages to her job that rarely, if ever, get acknowledged.
  • If Jeanie actually did take over basketball operations, how would she operate?
  • Kupchak, in so many words, made it clear he”d prefer Phil Jackson not be publicly critical of the Lakers, but is powerless to stop him. Could Jeanie? If so, why doesn”t she?
  • AAK!!! Can Jordan Hill actually become a stretch-four? What”s the best place for a third arm? Which superhero would work best for a Coen Brothers movie? Who wins a fight between Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago?
  • Brian and I offer recommended reading.

Click above to play, or just download the show here. Hope you enjoy it. To subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, click here. You can also find us on by heading here.

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More on Jim Buss, Jeanie Buss, and the present/future of the Lakers

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion | 2 comments

Last week, Jeanie Buss appeared on ESPNLA 710, sitting in studio for an hour and covering a ton of ground, including Dwight Howard, her relationship with Jim Buss, and how Phil Jackson impacts the franchise.

My big takeaway: The Lakers have a serious adjustment period coming, not just in the roster but in the way the front office operates as they attempt to fill the massive hole created by the death of Dr. Buss. It’s analogous to what Apple faced when Steve Jobs died. Dr. Buss was that level figure, and while alive, even if in a diminished capacity, the franchise had its anchor. Now they don’t, and the resulting power structure is far less stable. That the NBA world in which Jim and Jeanie operate is far more hostile to the Lakers than the one Dr. Buss bought into only makes things tougher.

That’s the dominant theme of this week’s piece on the state of the Lakers from Ric Bucher in the Hollywood Reporter.

Those following the day-to-day ebb and flow of the Lakers front office over the last few seasons will find Bucher’s story familiar, but there are still some interesting nuggets: 

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Jim and Jeanie Buss, the Lakers, and Apple

Posted by on Aug 10, 2013 in Interview, Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Opinion | 2 comments

If you didn”t have a chance to on ESPNLA 710, it”s worth the time. (For those of you who prefer to read, Ramona Shelburne has a fine summary of things here.)

Over the course of an hour, Buss comments on a variety of things, from her relationship to brother Jim, the ways in which Phil Jackson serves as an advisor for her (no surprise, given the whole “they”re engaged” thing), and her hope that Kobe Bryant doesn”t rush back from his Achilles injury. But the comments garnering the largest share of headlines dealt with Dwight Howard”s departure.

“When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.” she said.

“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn”t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn”t here anymore. People said [of the billboards], “Oh, that”s not the Laker way.” Well, the Laker way isn”t the same, because Dr. Buss isn”t here.”

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don”t know if Dr. Buss really could have convinced Howard to remain a Laker. While Howard reportedly wasn”t overwhelmed by Jim Buss during the team”s pitch meeting, there were plenty of negatives lined up against the Lakers that even Dr. Buss couldn”t fix, and obviously no way to answer the question definitively*. But Jeanie touches on a larger issue. The “Laker Way,” as it were, was already under pressure thanks to a shifting media and marketing landscape and a CBA designed to neuter the team”s financial strengths. But the culture shift is massive, and equally if not more important. Dr. Buss was an icon and visionary, someone who”s mere presence — even if limited in later years by health questions — leant credibility and confidence. He was the Laker Way.

It”s analogous to what”s happened at Apple since the death of Steve Jobs. Two monumentally successful and influential companies, led by dynamic, ground-breaking men whose names, personalities, and personal gifts became synonymous with the brand. Both dealt with illness, making the end an inevitability rather than a surprise and allowing for preparations to be made. Both companies remain staffed by very bright, capable people dedicated to continued success.** But once Steve Jobs was gone, Apple became a different company. So, too, the Lakers after Dr. Buss. Both are now left to navigate a world in which the challenges for and challengers to their supremacy are shifting, and the bar for success is incredibly high.

One big difference: While Jobs could be seen figuratively as a father figure for Apple as a company, in the case of Dr. Buss, it”s literal. Jim and Jeanie (with the rest of the Buss children) are running a family business handed to them by their dad, trying to live up to the standard he set. It doesn”t get more deeply personal than that.

This isn”t to say the Lakers should now be held to a lower standard, but is a reminder that learning to navigate without Dr. Buss won”t be easy or instant.

*The shadow of Dr. Buss will loom large over Jim, particularly in moments where things go wrong. If Jim does X, Dr. Buss would have done Y. Y, of course, being the right thing. 

**Though it seems the distrust many Lakers fans have for Jim Buss is shared by Applephiles regarding Tim Cook.



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Highlights from Thursday’s memorial for Dr. Buss

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Jerry Buss, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Video | 2 comments

There were a host of excellent speeches at Thursday’s memorial to Dr. Jerry Buss at the Nokia Theatre. (There was also the well-meaning-but-totally-uncomfortable work from Jim Buss’ friend Greg Tomlinson, recruited to speak on behalf of fans. But I digress…)

I posted the transcripts of a couple – Phil Jackson here and Kobe Bryant here — but for those who prefer moving pictures, I give you the following:

Magic Johnson

The final speaker of the day, Magic did a tremendous job illustrating not just the brilliance of Dr. Buss, but his humanity. Many times, Magic has referred to Dr. Buss as a father figure, someone who not only guided him through his career in the NBA, but also prepared him for life after basketball.

Among the more poignant moments in Magic’ speech came here: “When he want to the gates and God met him, I know he said “I hope you have a basketball league up here.” And I know he said, “Hey Wilt, your’e coming on my team.” And he already hit Chick Hearn and said your’e going to be my announcer. Again, we’re together. But the one thing he better not do is get a point guard.”

More speeches below the jump…

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The lesson Jim Buss needs to learn from Jerry

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak |

In the aggregate, I’d say Jim Buss has taken more flak than deserved over the last few years, or at the very least that some of the criticism has been misguided. Still, there has always been one thing about Jim Buss’ role with the Lakers sending up massive red flags for me, something I’d believe whether I thought he was an excellent basketball executive or a horrible one. (For the record, I think he’s somewhere in between.)

In professional sports, it is almost always a bad thing for the man who signs the checks to be directly involved in choosing who gets them. Ask Cowboys fans with Jerry Jones, or Redskins fans with Daniel Snyder, just to name a couple.

As Mitch Kupchak noted Tuesday meeting the media in El Segundo, Jerry Buss was active in the organization. Nothing, certainly nothing of substance, happened there without his approval. You’d expect that of a man at the head of a business about which he cared so deeply. Nonetheless, one of his defining characteristics was a willingness to trust the people who worked for him.

“He allowed the people that ran the day-to-day business to hire the people and keep the people as long as you felt they should be kept. He had a vision. He got involved in the big decisions. Whenever there was an issue, he would be involved in it. But he hired people, and he let them hire other people,” Kupchak said.

“Dr. Buss always gave his opinion, but most of the time he would say, “That’s how I feel, Mitch” or “That’s how I feel, Jerry,” but as you know I’ll defer to you.”

Jim Buss came up through the organization over the last six or seven years as a personnel guy. Jeanie ran the business, he learned the basketball end of things. Or at least that was the blueprint. I don’t see his scouting reports, I don’t know the internal conversations that have taken place over the last few seasons, so I can’t say with precision whether he’s actually good at it or not. I can say, particularly in his early days in the department, he was very lightly regarded. Kupchak has an enormous amount of respect around the league. As does Jeanie.

Jim? Eh…

I noted yesterday how late Jim Buss was in introducing himself to the Lakers public, and how the organization has both helped and hurt him by noting that Jim Buss wasn’t making any major decisions without Jerry’s final approval.

Now it’s Jim who has the final say, and how much of his father’s ethic of deference to the experts he inherited will almost surely be a determining factor in the team’s success.

If Kupchak is to be believed, there is reason to be encouraged.

“He’s very strong in his opinions, yet after an hour or two or three, if I feel as strongly, he’ll defer. And that’s what his dad did,” Kupchak said.

Nobody should expect Jim Buss to take a passive role in how the team is run, what players populate the roster, or what man stands on the sidelines. This is his family’s business, and he cares deeply about the team. But ironically, now that he has more control over the decision making process on the basketball end, he should exercise less of it.

Hire excellent people, and let them do their jobs. It was a guiding principle of Jerry Buss, one Jim would be wise to follow.

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