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.

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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.
Russell Westbrook
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.