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Jim Buss: Lakers’ progress, Luke Walton’s approval would make firing me a ‘big mistake’

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After the 2013-14 season, Jim Buss made a bold proclamation: He’d  resign as Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations if they weren’t “contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship … in three to four years.”

But instead of providing clarity about his job status, Buss’ pledge has only spurred questions.

How long is 3-4 years? Lakers governor and Jim’s sister, Jeannie Buss, said he has until the end of this season. Jim said he has until the end of next season.

What does “contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship” mean? She’s said at least second round. He’s being far more elusive.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

It’s a pledge that might prove to be Jim Buss’ undoing. Reached by the Southern California News Group last week, he said he “wasn’t referring to a certain playoff position” and that the deadline “really wasn’t as clear as people say it is.”

“This was quotes from three or four years ago,” he said. “Those were what the path was supposed to be.”

Jim Buss said injuries and the Kobe Bryant farewell tour derailed what her were otherwise reasonable expectations. He now believes in a different measuring stick.

“If I feel that the strides have been made,” Jim Buss said, “and the team is going in a very positive – not just a positive direction – a very positive direction, I don’t see a switch happening.”

The two most prominent Buss siblings agree that the season needs to play out before any decisions can be reached.

“We’re like every other team that we will play a season and we will assess that season when it’s over,” Jeanie Buss said. “No reason to speculate on any possible changes. It’s a waste of time to speculate.”

He said he and his sister will sit down at the end of the season, like any other year, and evaluate.

“It’s hard to comment on something that hasn’t even happened yet,” he said. “We’re assuming that the Lakers will not be in a position for me to stay confident about me staying in that position. You’re trying to predict where we’re going to be. If we end up being the worst bottom three teams, I can say you’re right. But I don’t think we are.”

If the Lakers show progress, Buss said, and “the coach is happy with everything the front office is doing,” he does not expect he will be going anywhere. With those caveats, Buss reinforced his earlier point: “I think it would be a big mistake on the Lakers’ part to make any switches.”

Is Jim really suggesting that the bar should be not finishing in the NBA’s bottom three? In that case, the Lakers – “just” the league’s seventh-worst team – are in good shape.

And that is progress. At 11-22, they’re on pace for their best record four years.

They’re also 11-22.

No matter how much new coach Luke Walton has refreshed the environment and connected with management, no matter how bright the young core is, the Lakers are still bad right now. That’s difficult to overlook considering how much Jim’s talk and numerous transactions indicated a a quick turnaround attempt. Unless his private plan differed, that doesn’t bode well for Jim’s ability to lead this franchise forward. I wouldn’t entrust an executive who backed into a quality solution only because his primary plan flopped so badly.

D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Brandon Ingram are excellent young building blocks. The Lakers are in a much better place than they were a few years ago, and Jim deserves some credit for drafting well once the team stumbled on the court.

But the stated goal wasn’t improving the franchise’s position. It was a quick turnaround to conference-title contention – and, at that, Jim failed miserably.

So, now he’s trying to move the goalposts. Ultimately, Jeanie must decide whether she’ll let him.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”