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Magic Johnson blames Jim Buss for Lakers’ problems

magic-johnsonMagic Johnson has been arguably the Los Angeles Lakers’ most vocal critic over the past two seasons. Last year, he blasted several Lakers players in an epic Twitter rant urging fans to stop blaming Mike D’Antoni for the team’s struggles. Magic still isn’t blaming D’Antoni this season. Instead, he believes owner Jim Buss is the problem.

“This is what happens when you make the wrong decisions, two coaching wrong decisions, giving Steve Nash that deal, it’s backfired,” Johnson told the LA Times on Wednesday.

“The biggest problem they’re going to have right now … you’ve got to get a guy like Jerry West to be the face of the team. … You’ve got to have someone helping Jim. He’s got to quit trying to prove a point to everybody that he can do it on his own, get his ego out of it, and just say, ‘Let me get someone beside me to help achieve the goals I want.’”

Magic said he believes Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is “great” but that he is not given enough power. By targeting someone like West for a front office position, he believes the Lakers can attract big-name free agents like the Miami Heat have.

“You need to get someone like Jerry to be the face, so agents are comfortable, players are comfortable, knowing the Lakers are going for a championship. … Look what Pat Riley did in Miami,” Johnson said. “If Pat Riley’s not there, you don’t get LeBron to buy in.

“Everybody’s telling me free agents don’t want to sign [with the Lakers]. … They’re looking at the Lakers now as a team that’s dysfunctional; who’s their leader, who’s the guy?”

Because he believes the 2013-2014 Lakers are a lost cause, Magic also agrees with Charles Barkley that Kobe Bryant should sit out the remainder of the season.

“He’s got to,” Johnson said, adding that the Lakers should have taken their time signing Kobe to an extension. “What is he coming back to? He’s not going to be able to stop the pick and roll, all the layups the Lakers are giving up. He’s been hurt twice, give him the whole year to get healthy.”

Almost exactly a year ago, Magic declared that it was “over” for the Lakers. He was right. He’ll probably be right again this time around.

Jim Buss: Lakers talking contract extension with Kobe Bryant

Kobe BryantLos Angeles Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss says the team has begun contract extension talks with Kobe Bryant, who is in the last year of his current deal.

Kobe, 35, is making $30.5 million this season, which is by far the highest amount in the league. He is returning from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon injury.

Buss told the OC Register’s TJ Simers that the team will allow Bryant to become a free agent next summer so they can sign first other players and then bring back Bryant. A day later, Buss tried to reassure everyone that Kobe isn’t going anywhere.

Buss told ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne that GM Mitch Kupchak and Kobe’s agent have been talking. He also delivered this strong quote, saying the Lakers aren’t done

“I want to put an end to any speculation that we would allow Kobe to become a free agent,” Buss told Shelburne on Friday night. “That’s not going to happen. Kobe is a top priority for us. He’s a Laker legend and always will be. I don’t think we’re done winning championships with him yet.”

Jim Buss: Dwight Howard was never really a Laker

Dwight Howard LakersDwight Howard spent very little time with the Los Angeles Lakers before heading off to Houston. Most NBA fans envisioned Howard becoming the face of the Lakers’ franchise after Kobe Bryant retired, but the plan never came to fruition. Team executive vice president Jim Buss does not sound surprised.

Rick Bucher interviewed Buss for a recent profile of the Lakers front office in The Hollywood Reporter, and the son of the late Jerry Buss offered some straight-forward comments about Howard.

Jim insists he’s just following his father’s blueprint, but the Howard situation suggests he missed a page. Instead of Jim spending time with Howard, the team launched a widely derided media campaign that implored ‘Stay’ on billboards. After Howard bolted, Jim turned on his former star, saying he wasn’t surprised or dismayed. ‘He was never really a Laker,’ says Jim. ‘He was just passing through.’

Those close to Howard say the Lakers could have persuaded him to stay. Even Jeanie believes that if her father had not been sick, he would have sealed the deal like so many before it. ‘It’s disappointing that Dwight isn’t here,’ she says. ‘I feel like we failed him.’”

This is not the first time Jeanie has said she felt her father could have kept Howard in LA. At the end of the day, the Lakers should not feel badly about losing Howard. If his heart wasn’t in it, it’s probably best to let him go to another city. That being said, it’s obvious a number of factors could have influenced the situation.

In addition to the passing of Jerry Buss, Howard has essentially admitted that things would have been different if the Lakers hired Phil Jackson instead of Mike D’Antoni. The team may have had more success last season and Howard may have wanted to stay to play for Jackson, especially since he did not get along with D’Antoni during his one season in LA.

Instead, Howard wound up “just passing through.” Whether or not that was a foregone conclusion is a matter of personal opinion.

H/T Pro Basketball Talk

Jim Buss thinks Kobe Bryant will be ready at start of season

Kobe Bryant AchillesJim Buss infrequently gives interviews, but the Los Angeles Lakers executive sat down with NBA TV during a Lakers Summer League game in Las Vegas on Thursday and provided an update on the status of Kobe Bryant.

Buss said that Bryant is well ahead of schedule in his rehab from a torn Achilles’ tendon, which was sustained on April 13. In fact, Buss says he expects the franchise icon to be back for the preseason.

“Well, we’re in Vegas, so I would bet a lot of money that [Kobe Bryant] comes back probably preseason,” Buss told NBA TV’s Rick Kamla. “He’s real sharp in taking care of himself, and he’s not going to rush anything just to get back to prove a point. He’s going to come back when he’s right, and he’s a machine. He’s inhuman that way.

[Photo: Kobe shares gross picture from his Achilles surgery]

“I see him coming back at the beginning of the season. I can’t believe how much he’s progressed so far,” Buss said of Bryant.

Kobe has a history of returning from injuries much earlier than expected. Last season he sprained his ankle in March and was expected to miss a few weeks, but he played in the team’s next game (albeit for only a dozen minutes before leaving and missing the next two games). In 2008, Bryant was advised to have surgery after tearing a ligament in his pinkie finger. The surgery would have kept him out multiple weeks. He bypassed the operation and played through the injury without missing a game.

Bryant is a notoriously fast healer who is impervious to pain. If the man were not ahead of schedule in his rehab from the Achilles tear — which can often take up to a year to heal — then we might have been surprised.

Jeanie and Jim Buss reportedly have not spoken since Phil Jackson fiasco

jeanie bussIf you thought the only issues the Lakers were having were on the court, think again. According to a report from the Orange County Register, Lakers executives (and siblings) Jeanie and Jim Buss have not spoken since the team hired Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson to replace Mike Brown in November.

Jeanie is engaged to Jackson and has been with him for over 12 years. She runs the business operations for the Lakers while brother Jim runs the basketball operations.

Jim and GM Mitch Kupchak were in negotiations with Jackson to make him the team’s head coach (for the third time) before deciding to hire D’Antoni instead. Jackson was bothered by the decision because he felt like the team had given him time to mull over the offer, and he reportedly was planning to accept the gig.

The OC Register’s Kevin Ding places the nugget of information into a larger context; he wonders how the relationship between the two will impact the Lakers’ ownership. Jerry Buss, who has owned the team since 1979, is turning 79 and reportedly has left his share of the team (66 percent) to his six children. If the two siblings who have the most active roles with the team are unable to agree on the direction of the franchise, Ding speculates that they could eventually sell the team.

Chest bump to Pro Basketball Talk

Kobe Bryant defends Jim Buss against Magic Johnson criticism

Magic Johnson seems to have made it his mission as of late to criticize Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss as much as possible. On Wednesday, Magic wrote on Twitter that he had been silent for a few days because he was mourning the Lakers’ decision to hire Mike D’Antonio over Phil Jackson. If that seems a bit dramatic, that’s because it is.

Kobe Bryant does not agree with the Laker legend.

“(Johnson’s) opinion is valued greater than most others because of what he’s done here with this franchise,” Bryant said Thursday according to the L.A. Times. “I can only speak from my perspective in my dealings with Jim. He’s been phenomenal. He’s seemingly made all the right choices. Going back in time, I’m sure he would have called me and consulted me on the Mike Brown hiring but that is what it is. Other than that, he’s been behind some pretty good moves, some pretty good trades for this organization.”

Johnson, who also ripped Buss for the way he was running the Lakers back in February, said he loves Jim’s father Jerry Buss but that Jim has made two critical mistakes already — one when he hired Brown and the other when he hired D’Antoni over Jackson.

Kobe’s comments would seem to indicate that Buss consulted him on the D’Antoni hiring and Kobe was fine with it. Jackson would have made sense for obvious reasons, but he was reportedly trying to use his leverage to make the Lakers fullfil some outrageous demands. D’Antoni makes more sense in the long-term and also has an existing relationship with Bryant and Dwight Howard from the Olympics, so the decision to hire him was not as catastrophic as Magic is making it sound.

H/T Pro Basketball Talk

Magic Johnson: I don’t believe in Jim Buss

Magic Johnson has been vocal about his displeasure with the Lakers over the past week, and now he’s taking aim at the team’s leadership.

Magic ripped Mike Brown in an interview with USA Today on Sunday, saying the coach deserved to be fired by the Lakers. He then announced on Wednesday that he had been silent on Twitter the previous few days because he was so upset that the team decided to hire Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson.

Magic’s expressions of anger didn’t end there. Later on Wednesday, Johnson turned up the heat on Jim Buss. The Hall of Famer straight up said he doesn’t believe in Buss, who is the current executive vice president of the Lakers.

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