The Lakers season has been an abject disaster to this point, as they seem all but assured to miss the postseason in LeBron James’ first year.
Still, there are few brands in the NBA bigger than the Lakers and as such, everyone wants to figure out how to get a piece of the pie — and the Lakers want to maximize their earning potential. Currently, the Lakers are scheduled to play at the Staples Center through the 2024-25 season when their lease runs up.
The expectation is and has been that they will re-sign at Staples and remain there well past 2025, but a recent lawsuit filed by Madison Square Garden Company against Inglewood over the Clippers’ plan to build a new arena over by the soon-to-be-opened Rams and Chargers stadium shows there were, at least briefly, discussions to move the Lakers to The Forum.
MSG owns The Forum and is upset that the Clippers are passing up on the opportunity to play at the renovated building, claiming the city of Inglewood tricked them into a lease with the city for land for parking to help the Clippers build their new arena. Emails produced in discovery and obtained by the L.A. Times show Jeanie Buss discussing the potential to move the Lakers to The Forum after their lease runs up with Staples.
Buss, advisor Linda Rambis, and business mogul Irving Azoff had lengthy correspondence via email about the potential for a move back in 2017, although all parties involve say nothing came of it and there are no plans for such a move.
The emails are a fascinating look at the way rich business people schmooze each other to get the ball rolling on ideas like moving a franchise worth billions of dollars to Inglewood, but they also indicate a bit of disdain inside the Lakers building for Steve Ballmer, owner of the Clippers.
Ballmer is frequently referred to as “Balls” or “Ballz” in the emails and at one point Buss references her ouster of brother Jim from the Lakers as evidence she could ruin Ballmer’s quest for an arena in Inglewood by potentially moving to The Forum. She also seems to question why commissioner Adam Silver would go along with the Clippers’ new arena plan — and, per The Times, had a discussion about Jerry West joining the Clips.
After discussing former Lakers player, coach and executive Jerry West joining the Clippers front office, Buss savaged the potential arena.
“They are all crazy,” she wrote. “This is a joke. Why would Adam let this happen?”
“Adam” is presumably NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
“He has no vote unfortunately,” Azoff responded. “It will be a long legal fight.”
Buss used a nickname for Azoff when she wrote back.
“We need to see you Nugget!!” she wrote. “Didn’t Ballz see what we did to my brother?? He will have nothing but Clippers basketball. Whoopee.”
Obviously, nothing came to fruition from these talks but these emails becoming public creates yet another minor PR disaster for the Lakers. They are partially owned by the group that owns Staples Center, so it could cause some internal turmoil over these unofficial discussions taking place, but beyond that the biggest impact this will have is on the relationship of the two L.A. teams.
It seems clear Buss isn’t too much of a fan of Ballmer stealing some of the spotlight in L.A. with the Clippers and at least considered a move partially out of spite (and partially due to the promise of a rebuilt Forum for the Lakers. While this isn’t a terrible surprise that privately Buss would vent about frustrations with Ballmer and the Clippers, it getting out may require some smoothing in Los Angeles.