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Category: Jim Buss

Kobe Bryant deserves better communication from Jim Buss

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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."

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Magic Johnson: Jim Buss is running the Lakers, not Mitch Kupchak

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These are uncomfortable days for the Lakers, who can't avoid drama or the glare of the spotlight yet again.

Magic Johnson said in a conference call Wednesday that Lakers executive Jim Buss, not General Manager Mitch Kupchak, was making the important decisions for the franchise.

"It's not Mitch's situation anymore. Mitch isn't running the team. Jim Buss is running the team," Johnson said. "Mitch has to follow the direction of Jim Buss and what he wants. I wouldn't say Mitch is the problem. He's going to do his job."

Mitch Kupchak has been in the Lakers' front office for 25 years but Buss has gradually been handed more power over the years by his father, team owner Jerry Buss.

Johnson said Jim Buss should meet personally with Kobe Bryant because the 14-time All-Star "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. 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."

When asked if he would meet with Jim Buss, Bryant responded Wednesday, "Um, perhaps."

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Lamar Odom trade: Lakers reach a crossroads

Racing to assemble a championship roster, the Lakers' front office finds itself at a crossroads.

Which way the team goes will quickly determine whether General Manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss will give the Lakers a more solid foundation or cause them irreparable damage. The Lakers just traded versatile forward and locker-room favorite Lamar Odom and a 2012 second-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2012 first-round pick and an $8.9-milliion trade exception. Will this just save the Lakers nearly $18 million in salary and luxury taxes? Or will it help the Lakers land Magic center Dwight Howard or in some other way prove to be a cunning move?

The trade prompted Kobe Bryant to fume, "I don't like it," saying the Lakers appeared to receive nothing in return for last season's sixth man of the year. But in his next breath, a composed Bryant gives Kupchak a vote of confidence.

"We got to let Mitch do his job," Bryant said. "Mitch has proven himself through the course of the years that he can build a great team. We have to have all trust that he's going to do that. That being said, it's still hard to see one of my friends and one of our great players go somewhere, especially that team, seemingly for nothing. Whether they have something else going on, that's on them to decide. But it's tough."

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Lakers can't let limited payroll inhibit risk-taking

Just like everyone else consumed with NBA basketball, Lakers forward Matt Barnes listens to the trade rumors.

Not all of them. He says he only cares about whether a rumor involves the Lakers. But unlike the average NBA fan, he has -- and is willing to share -- some insider knowledge, particularly when it involves any possibility his former teammates Dwight Howard or Baron Davis could join the Lakers.

"I've talked to both of those guys and they want to be here," Barnes said Friday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "We'll see what happens."

We sure will. But don't start pre-ordering Howard or Davis Lakers jerseys just yet. The Lakers face an unfortunate reality: A $91-million payroll, increased luxury taxes and increased revenue sharing suddenly make General Manager Mitch Kupchak worried about finances. 

"Based on our financial structure, we would be very limited in what we can do with our team in terms of free agency in the next two weeks," Kupchak said.

Fair enough. Last year, the Lakers could offer free agents a five-year, $32-million contract. This year, they can only offer a mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million, as well as a veteran's minimum of one year and $1 million. Short term, the Lakers may only need to address low-hanging fruit, such as formally cutting ties with Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff, likely letting Shannon Brown go, exercising $788,872 team options on Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and signing rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. 

But as the Lakers begin free agency on Dec. 9, they can't let such scenarios inhibit their risk-taking. It's a no-brainer to pursue Howard, but it involves much more creative structuring of deals than when picking up peripheral players. It's a no-brainer to pursue Chris Paul once free agency hits next season, but why wait when he's reportedly demanding a trade to New York?

Kupchak may feel confident that the Lakers can win a title with the current roster, but playing it safe could hurt the team's long-term future once Kobe Bryant's and Pau Gasol's contracts end after the 2013-14 seasons.

Of course, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has thrived on risk-taking. But as an avid poker player, he knows that doesn't always require having the most chips. It also requires doing the most thinking. 

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Kobe Bryant, Brian Shaw and Ronnie Lester have communication issues with Lakers' front office

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They have had different roles and histories with the Lakers organization, but there's a common thread that's tied Kobe Bryant, Brian Shaw and Ronnie Lester together.

The commonality goes beyond the 13 combined NBA championships they won with the Lakers. It points recently to their frustration over the front office's apparent lack of communication over important issues. The examples prove to be wide-ranging.

Bryant reportedly has been upset that management apparently didn't consult him and give him a heads-up about the hiring of Mike Brown as coach. Shaw, formerly the top assistant on Phil Jackson's staff, wishes he'd been told directly by the team that he wasn't getting the head coaching job, instead of learning of it through media outlets. And Lester, a former assistant general manager for the Lakers, feels offended that they provided little information on the 20 or so Lakers staffers, including himself, who were let go after their contracts expired June 30 and the NBA imposed a lockout.

The circumstances are different, but these examples involving Bryant, Shaw and Lester reveal that some of their misgivings could've been minimized with a simple phone call and more respect. Below is a more detailed look at all three situations. 

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Lakers shouldn't pin Andrew Bynum as their franchise player

61376481There's a constant tug for control, and we're not just talking about the NBA negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.

We're talking about who will serve as the face of the Lakers' franchise, and there's plenty of evidence suggesting there will be an ongoing effort in determining which side prevails. Lakers executive Jim Buss has told other team officials, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, that  center Andrew Bynum is untouchable in trade talks. Meanwhile, Buss  failed to even give Kobe Bryant a head's up about Mike Brown's hire, a decision he only regretted after to the fact in comments made to The Times' T.J. Simers. Bynum made it clear in his exit interview that he wants a larger role in the offense next season, while Bryant immediately fired back that Bynum needs to "fall in line." And though Brown stated in his introductory press conference that "this is Kobe's team," he outlined his vision for  the offensive pecking order working out naturally depending on who's playing well.

If only it were that simple. In light of the aforementioned off-season revelations, Lakers author Roland Lazenby penned a column at Hoopshype.com in which he talked to a Lakers insider who said that "Jim Buss is setting up Drew" to become the Lakers' franchise player. We'll have all of next season (if there even is one) to see how this all dynamic plays out, but there's plenty of reasons why it's misguided to cast Bynum as the team's franchise player now or even into the future. 

I'm not discounting what Bynum has brought to the team so far in his six seasons with the Lakers. Even with many fans clamoring about whether Bynum will ever become the dominant NBA center the Lakers envisioned when drafting him with their No. 10 pick in 2005, I had argued that everyone would need to exercise patience before reaching a definitive conclusion. Even amid various trade rumors that involved the Lakers shipping Bynum elsewhere, I lauded the organization's refusal to quickly pull the trigger on the young center. And even through his various injuries, I noticed that the Lakers still benefited from his presence because of their distinguishable skill set in having two 7-footers in Bynum and Pau Gasol.

But there are several areas I outline below that point out why it'd be wrong for the Lakers to pin Bynum as their next franchise player.

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How much change should the Lakers make to their roster?

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Whether the Lakers are coming off a championship season or under-performing in a shortened season, there's one thing that keeps fans unified and divided: trade talk. Unified because every fan wants to size up any trade scenario imaginable, wondering if that out-of-nowhere reserve that lighted up the Lakers in a regular-season game could produce more magic, or if the Lakers could land the next superstar. Divided because there is hardly ever any consensus.

I'll spend part of this offseason on a series that will analyze what effect free agents could have on the Lakers, and the feasibility of various potential deals. Those looking for significant changes are going to be disappointed. Lakers owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak have expressed their desire to keep the team's "core," wanting to only make "tweaks" to the lineup. The Lakers are coming off a season that included a $91-million payroll. And despite Magic Johnson's contention that Buss needs to "blow this team up" the Lakers aren't exactly scrubs, considering that before being swept by the Dallas Mavericks in this season's Western Conference semifinals, they had three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, earning two titles. 

After the jump, I'll look at the Lakers' roster and analyze how players may fit in next season. 

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Mike Brown brings enthusiasm to introductory press conference

Photo: From left to right, Jim Buss, Mike Brown, Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak at Brown's introductory news conference Tuesday. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters. Below are the highlights from the comments made by Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Coach Mike Brown at Tuesday's news conference.

Kupchak's timeline on hiring Brown

--A week following the Lakers regular season, Kupchak said, the coaching search began.

--Kupchak said he interviewed "several" candidates informally and then interviewed three candidates, including Mike Brown, Brian Shaw and one unnamed (likely Rick Adelman).

Each interview with ownership lasted two to three hours and "were done in great detail."

Kupchak said the decision to hire Brown was partly based on the interview and his resume, including leading the Cavaliers to two Eastern Conference finals appearances, an NBA Finals appearance and being named league coach of the year (2008-09).

From Mike Brown

--Called the head coaching experience a "tremendous opportunity."

--Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and Lakers forward Matt Barnes were in attendance.

--"My goal is to continue the course and continue to help build upon the very strong championship foundation that has been laid here already. I have great respect for Phil Jackson and all his accomplishments. I don't know what size shoe he wears, but I'm not looking to fill his shoes."

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Caught in the Web: Jim Buss talks to The Times' T.J. Simers about hiring Mike Brown

Photo: Jim Buss fields a reporter's questions at the team's training facility in El Segundo. Credit: Los Angeles Times/ August 23, 2005. --The Times' T.J. Simers talks to Lakers executive Jim Buss, who says the Lakers interviewed three coaching candidates and acknowledges he should've told Kobe Bryant ahead of time the Lakers were hiring Mike Brown.

--The Times' Mark Heisler shares a pessimistic view regarding whether there will be an NBA lockout.

--The Times' Chris Dufresne talks to former colleagues and players of Lakers Coach Mike Brown.

--The Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers talks to Rick Adelman about the Lakers courting him. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky talks to Clippers guard Mo Williams about playing for Brown.

--Fox Sports' Randy Hill details Brown's coaching history. 

--The New York Times' Peter May argues Brown's arrival ushers in a new era for the Lakers.

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Caught in the Web: Follow-up reports on Mike Brown becoming the Lakers' coach

Photo: Jim Buss, son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, played a leading role in the Lakers' decision to go with Mike Brown as its new coach. He's pictured in August 2005. Credit: Los Angeles Times--The Times' Broderick Turner mentions how very few people connected to the Lakers wanted to comment about hiring of Mike Brown as head coach.

-- In addition to criticizing Jim Buss for hiring Brown, The Times' Mark Heisler reports the following nuggets: Kobe Bryant didn't like the Brown hire, Jim Buss initially wanted Byron Scott, Doc Rivers and Nate McMillan but none was available, Jim Buss talked to only one candidate and the Lakers made the deal earlier than expected so the Warriors couldn't hire Brown. Heisler also credits the Heat's toughness in its Eastern Conference series win over Chicago.

-- ESPN.com's J.A. Adande explains how the Lakers are "divorcing themselves from their history."

-- Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick outlines Jerry West's role as a Warriors advisor. 

Amick also discusses the Brown hire in the video below

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