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LAKERS FYI

Jim Buss calls Lakers 'the team to beat' in the West

The Lakers' executive vice president of player personnel, who rarely comments about the team in public, also says on radio show that Coach Mike Brown has done a 'fantastic' job.

March 23, 2012|By Helene Elliott

Jim Buss said Friday the Lakers are "the team to beat" in the West and praised Coach Mike Brown for doing a "fantastic" job this season.

"The formula is pointing toward a deep run in the playoffs," Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president of player personnel, said during an in-studio interview with Steve Mason and John Ireland on ESPN 710 radio.

Buss said the Lakers are a championship-caliber team and said his opinion is shared by Kobe Bryant, whom he said he will never trade. Bryant had praised Buss on the same show Thursday.

"I just recently spoke to Kobe and he believes in this team. I believe in this team. I think we're going to get better and better and better," Buss said. "We are watching a learning process and we're what, 13 games above .500? I think that's great, and we're still learning."

Buss, whose team actually was 11 games over .500 (29-18) going into Friday's game against Portland, also complimented the Oklahoma City Thunder and its newest addition, former Laker Derek Fisher.

"Now that Oklahoma has added a hell of a player maybe they're the team to beat," Buss said. "If I were running another team in the West I wouldn't want meet us."

Buss, who rarely speaks publicly, said he plans to make himself more available to the media. By doing that, he said, he hopes fans won't fear what will happen when he eventually succeeds his father, Jerry Buss.

"I should have been out there before. Meet and greet, whatever it is," Jim Buss said. "I think that's the problem I've had to face. . . . If they don't know you it gives them more leeway to attack me.

"I'll change that and I'll do these shows and get on television and more newspaper articles. If people don't like the decisions I make, that's opinion, and that's OK with me."

A new trend?

Brown and Trail Blazers Coach Kaleb Canales have a lot in common: neither played in the NBA, both got a foothold in the league as video coordinators, and both were in their 30s when they became head coaches. Canales, 33, took over for Nate McMillan on March 15 and is the league's youngest coach.

Canales, the first Mexican American coach in the NBA — his father was born in Mexico and his mother in the U.S. — said he has used Brown as an example.

"Age and lack of experience in terms of the NBA level, playing, is something I can't control. What I can control is [being] committed and love for the game, like Coach Brown has," Canales said.

"Seeing his path was a great inspiration for somebody like myself, knowing where he started. I started in the video room, like he did, and the NBA foundation — I call it NBA 101 because you're in there watching four or five games a night. I wouldn't want it any other way."

It could be a fad. "I hope so," Brown said. "I think when you do that you at least have a chance to experience what every step of the way is. . . . There's nothing that I'd tell anybody that they can't do because I did it. Go video coordinators!"

Time check

Sunday's game against Memphis at Staples Center will start at 7:30 p.m., an hour later than usual on Sunday nights.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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