Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Mike Brown

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

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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.

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.