The Lakers are in stasis, caught between re-building, Kobe Bryant‘s mammoth pre-CBA contract which pays him $30 million this season alone, and a fan-base that has little patience, or experience, with substandard play. They’ll ride into battle this year with their top three players, Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, all on the wrong side of 32, but who account for nearly $60 million towards the league’s fifth-highest payroll of $76 million.
About the only good news is they only have Nash’s $9.7 million on the books for 2014-15, and will likely make a run at LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony next summer â€” if, as they’re expected to do â€” those two stars terminate their contracts early.
The death of the Lakers’ elder patriarch Jerry Buss in February, has left the Lakers’ fate in the hands of his children, with all the baggage siblings generally bring to the table. One of them, the often-maligned Jim Buss, can’t seem to let Dwight Howard go.
Jim insists he’s just following his father’s blueprint, but the Howard situation suggests he missed a page. Instead of Jim spending time with Howard, the team launched a widely derided media campaign that implored “Stay” on billboards. After Howard bolted, Jim turned on his former star, saying he wasn’t surprised or dismayed. “He was never really a Laker,” says Jim. “He was just passing through.”
Those close to Howard say the Lakers could have persuaded him to stay. Even Jeanie believes that if her father had not been sick, he would have sealed the deal like so many before it. “It’s disappointing that Dwight isn’t here,” she says. “I feel like we failed him.”
While Jim’s quote about D-12 in Bucher’s piece comes off as callous and bitter, Jeanie seems genuinely hurt that Howard left, but blamed her own organization for failing to make him comfortable enough to sign long-term. Unfortunately, Jim Buss handles the basketball side of the organization with Jeanie relegated to the business side with little to no say on the personnel she markets so effectively.
Jeanie and her fiancÃ©, Phil Jackson, are woven into the fabric of Bucher’s piece as the superego to Jim Buss’ id. It appears Jim and the Zen Master are at odds since Jim was the primary reason Mike D’Antoni was brought in as coach while Jerry Buss sat in the hospital late last year.