Buss said chances were "very good" the Lakers would start next… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Just when you thought the Lakers no longer possessed someone capable of dribbling through traffic, here comes Jim Buss racing untouched through Page 2 of this sports section.
Earlier this week, the Lakers' basketball boss was given the forum to make ridiculous comments without rebuttal. Somebody has to call Buss on this stuff, right? His opinion that the Lakers need no major improvements is as fundamentally flawed as the team itself. Somebody needs to step in here and take a charge.
"Bring it on," Buss said at the start of the interview.
Well, OK, here we go.
Buss said that chances were "very good'' that they would start next season with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum all still on the team.
This is very bad. Was Buss watching the playoffs from another planet? Did he not see this core's lack of cohesion under pressure? Did he not listen to them quietly complain about each other after almost every game?
The Lakers admitted they needed to break up the threesome at the beginning of last season when they traded away Gasol as part of the nullified deal for Chris Paul. What exactly happened this season that would make Buss change his mind?
A year after an embarrassing sweep by the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers won exactly one more playoff game, falling in the second round again, this time in five games to Oklahoma City. The last we looked, during their final 16-point defeat in Oklahoma, Bryant and Gasol were quarreling, Bynum was hiding, Ramon Sessions was disappearing, Metta World Peace was freaking, and Mike Brown was stressing.
Against a Thunder team that is only improving, the Lakers were a mess. In the previous round, against a young and growing Denver Nuggets team, the Lakers were rumpled enough to need every bit of seven games to survive.
The season ended with everyone expecting some sort of change, including Bryant, who said, "We've built title teams pretty quickly … we just have to do it again."
And now Buss announces that he's not planning on building anything? Yet in the same story he says that he and Bryant are on the same page? It feels as if they're in different organizations.
"I think changes are going to be made moving Pau lower to the basket,'' Buss said. ''We can improve that way with a change in coaching strategy rather than change in personnel.''
Oh, so now Buss is blaming the problems on the guy he hired instead of the pieces he gave him? Buss is having enough trouble running this team, he shouldn't try to coach it. Questioning Brown's strategy is also an odd comment considering later in the interview, he praises Brown for doing a "fantastic" job under the circumstances.
"We will try to sign Sessions when the rules allow beginning in July," said Buss.
Are we talking about the same Ramon Sessions? The Lakers should have been doing cartwheels when Sessions decided to become a free agent, a move that allows them to find an actual point guard who is good enough not to be benched for long stretches in big playoff games while having the ability to occasionally guard someone like Russell Westbrook or Ty Lawson.
The salary-capped-out Lakers cannot buy a big-time free agent, and they have only the 60th and final draft pick, but they do have cap exceptions of $3 million and $9 million. That should be enough to make minor improvements in the backcourt and bench without bringing back Sessions.
As for major improvements needed, the only reasonable explanation for Buss' white flag is that the Lakers have already tried to trade Gasol and are finding few takers for a struggling player who is owed nearly $40 million over the next two seasons.
So, dude, fine, you do what you should have done earlier, and trade Bynum.
"I've bought into Phil [Jackson's] philosophy that he's growing up and he'll be fine,'' Buss said. "I expect Andrew to mature as a player and as a person this upcoming season.''
Seriously? Buss is waiting for a seven-year veteran to "mature"? In a recent HBO interview, Jackson said giving Bynum a larger role has messed with the team's "symmetry." If Buss listened to Jackson's original philosophy in keeping Bynum, why isn't he listening to Jackson now?
Me, as usual, I'm listening to Magic Johnson, who was portrayed in the Buss story as a sort of villain for having the gall to question his former employers.
Funny, but if the Lakers had listened to Johnson last spring, they might not be in this mess. After their sweep by the Mavericks, Johnson said they needed to blow the team up. Everyone shuddered, but guess what? They needed to blow the team up.
Johnson gave another interview for ESPN on Thursday in which he said, "If the Lakers are going to get back to the Finals, they are going to have to look to get better, get faster, get quicker."
Ultimately, the only person who can make that happen is Jim Buss. Bring it on? Oh, it's here.