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How Jerry Buss helped keep the Jazz in Utah

February 26, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • A Lakers fan signs a memorial board for Jerry Buss at L.A. Live.
A Lakers fan signs a memorial board for Jerry Buss at L.A. Live. (Los Angeles Times )

It wasn't necessarily a surprise that the Lakers lost on the second night of a back-to-back in Denver on Monday night. They were fortunate that the Jazz also fell at home, in overtime (110-107) to the Boston Celtics.

The seventh-place Jazz are 3 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference. Because Utah has the tie-breaker, the Lakers need to finish with a better overall record -- a difficult task given the remaining schedule.

The Lakers and Jazz have a long history going beyond a simple conference rivalry.

As Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune detailed, the late Jerry Buss helped save the Utah franchise.

"According to the late [Jazz owner] Larry Miller, Buss played an undeniable role in keeping the Jazz from moving to Miami in 1985," Luhm wrote.

Miller had reached an agreement with former owner Sam Battistone to buy 50% of the team for $8 million.

The NBA Board of Governors, led by then-San Antonio Spurs owner Angelo Drossos, was skeptical about the financing.

"He made up his mind [he] didn't want me there and wouldn't listen to my answers," Miller recalled in his autobiography.

"After the fifth interruption, Buss, who I had never met, interrupted Angelo," Miller wrote. "He said, 'Angelo, why don't you shut up and let him answer a question?'"

According to Luhm, Buss then took the lead in questioning Miller. Once satisfied, he gave his endorsement and helped push the sale through, keeping the Jazz in Utah.

Now the Lakers just need the Jazz to go on a sizable losing streak to open a top-eight spot in the Western Conference.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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