Jim and Jerry Buss. Jim Buss blamed injuries as the primary reason for the… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Jim Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president of basketball operations, vowed Thursday that now is not the time to panic over the team's 15-20 start.
Speaking with John Ireland and Ramona Shelburne, who was sitting in for regular host Steve Mason, on 710 ESPN radio, Buss blamed injuries as the primary reason for the Lakers' struggles.
"I don't know if we've had five games where all our players are playing," Buss said. "When you have injuries like that, you can't play enough games together to get chemistry."
So far the Lakers have played 24 games without Steve Nash, 10 without Pau Gasol and two without Dwight Howard. Gasol is currently recovering from a concussion. Howard, who had back surgery in April, now has a shoulder injury that will be reevaluated next week.
"Howard was playing at 70% and is probably still at 80%," Buss said. "He doesn't have the explosiveness. It's frustrating to him. You can see it. He talks about.'"
What of the team's glaring struggles on defense?
"You can't really get the defense going unless you play together; with injuries we haven't played enough together," said Buss.
Is Coach Mike D'Antoni still the right guy for the job?
"I like D'Antoni a lot. I still believe in him 100%. I have no questions about him," Buss said. "We just don't have enough information to analyze anything. It's just not enough data to put your finger on a problem."
Do the Lakers need to consider wholesale changes to the roster before the Feb. 21 trade deadline?
"How can you not believe in this team? This team is built to win and it's a very, very solid team," Buss said. "In my mind, we would not consider a temporary fix or blow it up. Why blow up something that we have a future with?"
Can the Lakers even make the playoffs?
"If we play together and we play with the energy that we've seen in the last two games, then you go into the playoffs with momentum," said Buss, who then drew an analogy to the Kings in last season's NHL playoffs. "You saw what the Kings did in the eight seed last year. They came into the playoffs hot and they bulldozed their way through the playoffs and I could see this happening with this team. I'm not ready to let that go."
Does the team need to make the playoffs to persuade Howard, who will be a free agent this summer, to stay long-term?
"If we make the playoffs, that means we're playing well and I think we'll go deep in the playoffs and I think it's a no-brainer that he stays," Buss said. "I think if it continues to fall apart because of injuries, I'm hoping that we can convince him that, 'Look, everybody was injured. You weren't 100% for the whole year. Let's give it another shot next year.'"
"It points to 95% that we'll be able to keep him," he continued. "I can't control what he does, but I can sure make a great argument."
With Gasol's struggles this year, averaging 12.2 points a game on 41.6% shooting from the field, do the Lakers need to move him in a trade before the deadline?
"I love Pau Gasol," Buss said. "To base his year ... off his shooting percentages is just not the right way to analyze how he's playing.
"I believe eventually he will move down there and D'Antoni will move him down there and his percentage will go back right to where it was," he said of Gasol playing from the low post.
Right or wrong, Buss is a primary decision-maker along with owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak. The future of the organization relies on how he perceives the Lakers' prospects.
"I'm still excited about the team but injuries have played such a huge part in this. I'm not frustrated with the players at all," Buss said. "Am I upset that we might not make the playoffs? Of course."
"To panic?" asked Buss. "No, we're not going to panic."
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Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.