Kobe Bryant deserves better communication from Jim Buss
In the middle of the night, Kobe Bryant often sees something on film and texts Mike Brown a thought or a question.
The Lakers coach texts right back.
Moments after stewing about the Lakers trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant visited Mitch Kupchak's office. The general manager maintains the meeting remained jovial and involved more than just why the Lakers traded their most valuable reserve.
Soon after the Lakers' 103-92 victory Monday over the Portland Trail Blazers, Bryant spoke at an informal meeting. Just like they do during practice and games, his teammates' ears perked up.
Unfortunately for Bryant, executive Jim Buss hasn't extended the same courtesy. He didn't heed any of Bryant's suggestions during this offseason's coaching search for Phil Jackson's replacement. Buss didn't even alert him ahead of time the Lakers would hire Brown. The same can be said about Odom's departure, the franchise's direction and pretty much any imaginable topic. The silence has remained so rampant, Bryant revealed in an interview with the New York Post's Peter Vescey in December that he couldn't recall the last time he spoke with Buss.
It shouldn't be that way. That's why Magic Johnson suggested in a conference call that Buss should personally meet with Bryant, who "just wants to be informed as a leader and future Hall of Famer and a guy who has brought five championships to the Lakers."
"He wants more communication, probably like he did when [former coach] Phil Jackson was there and he worked well with Mitch," Johnson said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "I don't think Kobe feels he has that type of relationship or the communication has been there with Jim. What probably has to happen is they need to sit Kobe down and sit Jim down. Dr. [Jerry] Buss was the master at taking you to lunch or taking you to dinner and going over what he was thinking and what he wanted to do with the team. Jerry West was good at that as well. Kobe, Mitch and Jim just have to get on the same page and things will be OK."
But Bryant's message never had to do with the practical implications. It truly stemmed from his frustration with feeling completely out of the loop regarding the organization's future. You can argue that players don't deserve such clarity from the front office, but it deviates from everything what the Lakers' once stood for before Jim Buss took larger responsibility.
Johnson remained so close with Jerry Buss that he often partied with him. West remained incredibly close with players, ranging from everyone with the Showtime teams to Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Even during Bryant's trade demands, Buss still met privately with him to assuage his frustration. And even when Kupchak remained in charge, he largely welcomed Bryant's input during the 2010 free-agency period.
"His approach was kind of like, 'This is what I’m hearing,' " Kupchak said last summer of Bryant, regarding his role in helping the Lakers secure Matt Barnes. "He never said, 'What are you going to do? This is what I want you to do.' It was, 'This is what I’m hearing.' "
And that's all Bryant needed from Buss. That hasn't happened, though, and remains a huge reason why the Lakers remain where they are today.
-- Mark Medina
Email the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times