Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Mike Brown

Dwight Howard isn’t Jim Buss’ legacy. That begins now.


Jim Buss has become a caricature to many Lakers fans — the media shy, hard-partying son of a legendary owner who stays in the shadows, doesn’t get the tradition and doesn’t get how to run a franchise like his father. Nepotism at its worst.

But like most caricatures that is a two-dimensional representation that distorts the truth.

Ask people around the league and they speak of Buss as smart and measured. Listen to him speak — or read an in-depth interview with him such as the one Ramona Shelburne did at ESPNLosAngeles.com — and you get the sense of a guy who gets the incredible shadow he is living in, the near impossibility of living up to his father’s successes, and a how much he wants to do the job right.

That includes owning up to the disappointment of last season.

“My dad was disappointed, just as all Laker fans should be disappointed that we didn’t get to realize the dream of four Hall of Famers on the same team,” Buss said in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com. “But hey, we went for it. What the hell. …

“You fix it, and you move forward. You don’t dwell on the past. You fix it, and you move on.

“We could’ve sat there and cried and said, ‘Boy, oh boy, we just lost this kind of money.’ We could’ve done this or that. But we were all on board. Every decision was made as a team. And we went down as a team. We’ll live in the future the same way.”

Buss talks in that story extensively about the lessons he learned from his father. About value, and gambling at the right time. He’s been the guy making most of the calls for a few years now, but with the death of Dr. Buss things are different. Feel different.

Dwight Howard and his flame out in Los Angeles is not what will define Jim Buss as the Lakers owner. But how he bounces back from that the next few seasons will — under his father the Lakers were never down for that long, they made the smart plays to get back to good quickly. And great not long after.

However, Jim Buss faces challenges rebuilding his father did not. Ones that will make carving out his own legacy (and that of the Buss children) much more difficult.

For one, the new CBA was set up to prevent teams like the Lakers from just outspending their opponents for the elite talent. Next summer — once the Lakers re-sign Kobe Bryant (they hope at a significant discount from the $30 million he makes this season) and once they make a decision on Pau Gasol, two things they have to do quickly to free up the cap holds that will hold their spending hostage — they will have money to go after free agents. Not as much as some Lakers fans think, but they will have money. And they will have the lure of Los Angeles. And tradition (although that matters less to players and their agents than you think).

It is not going to be easy to get free agents to come to the Lakers — LeBron James is almost certainly not coming. Even the Lakers front office knows this, a source told Henry Abbott at TrueHoop. What’s more, look what other agents told him about coming to these Kobe-centric Lakers.

“Pau is a two-time champion and a five-time All-Star and he’s one of the most disrespected players ever,” notes one agent. “He gets bad press all the time.”

Another agent says: “The Lakers are Kobe. You have to understand that. It’s not the organization for you if you want the ball or the spotlight. All that glitters ain’t gold.”

I asked a third agent, who has a Laker client right now, if he thought Bryant might be a sticking point for free agents. His immediate response: “Uh, duh. Yes.”

The Lakers are going through a transition. It’s going to take time — not just one year, not just two.

Because of that Jim Buss can’t be and shouldn’t be judged right now, you need to wait five years to really begin to fairly assess him as an owner. And even that will be preliminary. We don’t really work that way in a 24-hour news cycle, but that those quick judgments tend to put things in just two dimensions.

Jim Buss is a three-dimensional person with a lot on his shoulders. We’re about to start learning how well he can do the job ahead of him.

Doc Rivers: Clippers might blow up roster if they fall short this season

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin DeAndre Jordan, Doc Rivers
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The Clippers have gone 56-26, 57-25 and 56-26 the last three years – clearing the commonly accepted 55-win bar for championship contention.

But they’ve also won only zero, one and one playoff series in that span.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

The Clippers have had three cracks at it with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan all in their primes, and they’re not afraid to admit the fourth could be their last — that another flameout will force them to ask whether the core has grown stale.

“We’re right on the borderline,” Doc Rivers tells Grantland during a long sit-down at his office. “I have no problem saying that. I’m a believer that teams can get stale. After a while, you don’t win. It just doesn’t work. We’re right at the edge. Oklahoma City is on the edge. Memphis, too. We just have to accept it.”

I disagree with Rivers.

It’s so hard to assemble a roster that can win a title, and the Clippers absolutely have one. If they fall short this season, they’ll probably still have a title-contending roster the following year. They shouldn’t throw that away just for the sake of change.

Paul (30), Jordan (27) and Griffin (26) are young enough for the Clippers to remain patient.

Rivers makes a good point later in Lowe’s article:

“You need luck in the West,” he says. “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”

The Warriors were the NBA’s best team last season, but they also got plenty of breaks. That’s why they won the title.

The Clippers might need more luck to win a championship, but it wouldn’t be an overwhelming amount. The better a team is, the less luck it needs. The Grizzlies can probably win a title with all the right breaks, but they need more than the Clippers.

It’s about being good enough to win with the right breaks.

The Clippers are that. They’ll probably be that unless they do something drastic.

Unless a lopsided trade comes around, I’d stick with Paul, Griffin and Jordan until they really prove they can’t win together. That would take years. A team not winning a title is not proof it can’t win a title. Every year, multiple teams can win a championship. Obviously, only one does.

Rivers has it good with his big three. This shouldn’t be a make-or-break year for them.

51 Q: Which coaches start the year on the hot seat?

Lionel Hollins
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Going into every season, there are a few coaches under pressure to perform or risk losing their jobs. This season, the operative word there is “few.” Looking around the NBA, most coaches are either new on the job or aren’t in any real danger of losing theirs. There are five brand-new coaches: Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City), Fred Hoiberg (Chicago), Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), Michael Malone (Denver) and Scott Skiles (Orlando). The coaches they replaced were mostly the ones whose names often came up in these discussions. Practically everywhere else, there is either a long track record of success or clear signs that ownership is happy with the job the coach is doing. Coaches who are actually on the hot seat are few and far between. But here are a few who might find themselves in trouble if their teams underperform:

Jeff Hornacek (Phoenix Suns): Two years ago, Hornacek was a Coach of the Year candidate for taking a team that was supposed to be one of the league’s very works and making them into almost a playoff team. Last season was another near-miss. This season, the Suns are once again on the bubble of being a playoff team — there’s a chance they could grab the eighth seed in the Western Conference, if a lot goes right. Hornacek deserves a lot of credit for their sooner-than-expected success. The only reason he’s on this list is the potential for a chemistry disaster on this roster. Between Markieff Morris‘ situation and another attempt at a two-point guard lineup (this time with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight), there’s a lot that could go wrong, and if the Suns fall out of playoff contention. Hornacek could find himself in a little hot water. But that’s unlikely.

Lionel Hollins (Brooklyn Nets): Hollins has always felt like something of a short-term solution in Brooklyn. The Nets tried going young at the head coaching spot with Jason Kidd, who clashed with management over control before leaving for Milwaukee. This Nets roster is middling at best — some solid veterans, not a lot of young talent, no future hope to speak of unless they land a marquee free agent next summer. Their ceiling is the eighth seed and a first-round exit; their floor is a lot worse than that. It would take a catastrophic start to the year for Hollins to lose his job during the season, but there isn’t exactly a lot of long-term security in his position.

Derek Fisher (New York Knicks): It’s hard to see Phil Jackson firing his protege less than two years in, but the Knicks enter the season with the goal of competing for a playoff spot and a lot of potential to be worse than that. Don’t rule out James Dolan stepping in.

Steve Clifford (Charlotte Hornets): Clifford’s chances of losing his job during the season basically disappeared when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went down with a shoulder injury that will likely keep him out the entire season. Without their best perimeter defender, the Hornets’ expectations are a lot lower than they would have been. Now, it’s hard to see them competing seriously for a playoff spot unless Jeremy Lamb makes a huge leap and proves himself capable of being an NBA-caliber starter. If they’re even competitive, it will be an enormous credit to Clifford, who is well-regarded around the league. The story would have been different if they had entered the season with a healthy roster and underperformed, but the MKG injury likely buys Clifford a year before this conversation starts up again.