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Lakers extended Kobe Bryant because they believe Jerry Buss would have

Kobe BryantThe Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to sign Kobe Bryant to a two-year contract extension on Monday was about more than just money. Many have wondered why the team would want a player who is 35 years old and returning from a major injury to be the highest-paid player in the NBA over the next two seasons. One of the reasons is that late Lakers owner Jerry Buss would have wanted to give Kobe the deal.

Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, Jerry’s son, spoke about loyalty on Monday when discussing Bryant’s new contract.

“Loyalty is one of the values our dad instilled in us,” he said, per ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne. “It’s how he ran the Lakers and how we aspire to continue to run the Lakers.”

According to Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, a source close to Jim and his sister Jeanne Buss said their “feeling on it was this is what their dad would have done.”

Does that mean the decision may not be what’s best for the franchise in terms of championship potential? That’s certainly a possibility. The Lakers will still have room to go after free agents this summer, but Kobe will be occupying a very large chunk of their salary cap space. If he is the Kobe of old when he returns, it will be well worth it. If not, the Lakers may have handcuffed themselves until he retires.

Jeanie Buss: Jerry could have convinced Dwight Howard to stay

Jerry BussLos Angeles Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss thinks the recruitment process of Dwight Howard would have gone differently, and likely better for the team, had her late father still been around.

Dr. Jerry Buss bought the Lakers in 1979 and the team won 10 championships under his leadership. The legendary owner died of kidney failure in February at age 80, and he put the team in the hands of his children while his health was declining. Had he still been around and an active part of the Lakers, Jeanie thinks he could have helped convince Dwight to stay.

“They would have probably had a better relationship if my dad wasn’t sick,” Jeanie Buss told ESPNLA 710′s Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson on Thursday (audio here). “When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.”

Jeanie acknowledged that the team putting up the “Stay D12″ billboards around the city might not have been the right move.

“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we have to learn how to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here. I know there was a lot of ‘hey that’s not the Laker way.’ But the Laker way isn’t the same, because Dr. Buss isn’t here.”

Jeanie said she is very disappointed that Howard left; not only did she develop a personal relationship with him, but she considers him to be a great talent. Jeanie also said she did not agree with Howard’s decision.

Jeanie did not attend the team’s meeting with Howard during free agency. She said he knew how she felt about him and that her being there would have been redundant since her brother was already part of the meeting as a representation of the team’s ownership.

Contrary to the January report that said Jeanie and brother Jim, who runs the personnel side of the team, were not getting along, Jeanie said she has a great relationship with all of her siblings.

She is probably right saying that her dad would have given the team a better shot at retaining Howard. Some of the decisions made by the franchise’s leadership since Jim Buss took over the team have been very questionable, and Dwight likely recognized that. Look no further than the decision to hire Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson as one of the best examples of the mistakes.

Jerry Buss left a Bentley, Hawaii condo to young girlfriend Delia Cortez

Jerry Buss Delia CortezJerry Buss had a reputation for being a ladies’ man, and a few items in his will seem to confirm that.

According to TMZ, which obtained a copy of the late Lakers owner’s will, Buss left a 2009 Bentley and condo in Honolulu, Hawaii, to his young girlfriend, Delia Cortez.

Cortez reportedly is in her late 20s and was studying to be a vet. She and Buss reportedly had an “intimate relationship.” He supposedly amended his will last year to include Cortez.

Cortez’s Facebook profile indicates that she studied at Chaminade University of Honolulu and went to high school in Honolulu. She changed her profile picture to one of her with Buss on Feb. 18, the day he died.

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Lakers take team picture, leave chair open for Jerry Buss

Lakers team photo Jerry Buss

The Los Angeles Lakers took their team picture on Wednesday, and they did something very cool to honor their late owner. A chair between Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the bottom row was left open, and the Los Angeles Times’ Eric Pincus says that was done to honor Dr. Jerry Buss. Buss died Feb. 18 at the age of 80. He bought the team in 1979, and the team won 10 championships under his watch. He would probably be proud of their recent run that has them in playoff contention.

Photo credit: Twitter/Lakers

Lakers honor Jerry Buss with tribute video

The Los Angeles Lakers honored former team owner Jerry Buss Wednesday before the team’s first game since Buss died.

Buss, who was 80 years old when he died on Monday, bought the Lakers in 1979. The team won 10 NBA championships during his 34 years of ownership.

Buss was honored with a tribute video, speech from Kobe Bryant, and moment of silence before the team’s game against the Boston Celtics.

The video showed several pictures of Buss throughout the years. After the video tribute ended, Bryant, speaking with his voice trembling with emotion, honored Buss with his words. He led a moment of silence where the arena went dark with just a spotlight focused on Buss’ chair in his owner’s suite.

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Jerry Buss reportedly in hospital, dying of cancer

Jerry BussLos Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been hospitalized with cancer and is near death, Radar Online reports.

Radar Online says Buss, 79, is at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with friends and family at his bedside. They say Lakers players have been stopping by and calling to give him their best wishes.

The Los Angeles Times adds that Buss has been in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Buss has not attended a Lakers game the entire season because of his declining health. The Orange County Register says Buss was hospitalized most of the past year.

Buss purchased the Lakers in 1979 and the team has won 10 championships since then. He has ceded control of the franchise to his children. His son, Jim, has been active in building the roster and team while his daughter, Jeanie, has been running the business side. Jim and Jeanie reportedly went through a period of not speaking after the team passed over Phil Jackson, her fiancee, in favor of Mike D’Antoni as head coach.

Does Jerry Buss Believe Kobe Bryant Is Worth $70 Million a Year to the Lakers?

The NBA owners have locked out the players and the sides are working on negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. There is currently a soft salary cap and a maximum placed on the amount of money players can earn. Kobe Bryant is the top earner in the NBA in terms of annual salary, making just over $25 million per season. Few people would argue that he’s not worth more to the Lakers organization. According to a report, team owner Jerry Buss agrees.

In a column on NBA player salaries not matching the value of true stars, Adrian Wojnarowski drops in the following nugget.

“Privately, Jerry Buss has told people that Bryant – who will make a league-high $25 million this season under his current contract terms – is worth perhaps $70 million a year to the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Players like Kobe capitalize on endorsement deals so it’s not as if they’re not making major money. Still, few people would say the game’s superstars are not worth more than they make from their teams. On the other hand, most of the bench players and mid-level guys are worth far less than what they make.

The information above may serve as an argument to remove the salary cap and make the NBA a free market system. I disagree. The most competitive leagues have hard salary caps because that puts teams on equal footing. Look at the NFL and NHL — teams have hope that they can succeed from year-to-year whereas MLB and NBA teams pretty much already know where they stand before seasons begin. Now if you want to remove maximum contracts, that is reasonable. However, it would likely come at the cost of the NBA’s mid-level players, for whom owners might have less money.

Thank you, I am a GM