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Report: Jeanie Buss heads to court, blocks first effort by Jim Buss to push her out as Lakers controlling owner

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The Shakespearian drama that is the Buss family and their Game of Thrones fight over control of the Lakers seems to be just getting started.

Round one goes to Jeanie Buss.

Just a couple of weeks after she used her power as the team president and person with the hammer to move Jim Buss out as head of Lakers basketball operations and install Magic Johnson in the role, Jim and his brother Johnny took steps to try to push Jeanie out of power, so she went to court to block the move, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Jeanie was able to block the move, according to her attorney.

Jeanie Buss has thwarted an effort by her brothers, Jim and Johnny, to oust her as the Lakers president and controlling owner as the behind the scenes battle for control of the franchise moved into the courtroom.

Attorneys for Jeanie Buss sought a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday to prevent the brothers from holding an emergency meeting next week to elect a new board of directors for the team that didn’t include her. In order to be the controlling owner, she has to be a director.

The brothers withdrew the request for a new election of a team board of governors after Jeanie went to court, according to the report.

There are six Buss children each with an equal share of ownership of the Lakers (each has 11 percent), however, a complex trust put in place by late owner Jerry Buss guides the operation. Jeanie was installed the controlling owner, the one recognized by the NBA as the face of the franchise and the one with the vote for Board of Governors’ meetings. Jim Buss was put in charge of basketball operations by the trust, but Jeanie had the power to change that. She was admittedly hesitant to make a change, but as the Lakers continued to flounder for years through the worst stretch in franchise history she felt she had to make a move. Not only was Jim cleared out, so was GM Mitch Kupchak and long-time head of media relations John Black.

It shouldn’t be surprising Jim made a power play, and he has his brother Johnny Buss helping him make his move, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

In papers filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jeanie Buss maintains that her brother Johnny “with the active participation of (brother) Jim breached the express terms of the trust that require them to take all actions reasonably available to them to ensure that (Jeanie) remains the controlling owner of the Lakers.”

According to her court papers, Johnny Buss, also a part owner of the Lakers, recently sent notice to his sister that a proposed slate of four people for the Lakers board included himself and his brother, but not Jeanie.

Right now Jim, Johnny, and Jeanie are the three voted as trustees. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Jim and Johnny argued they had the votes (2-1 among the trustees) to elect new directors. Jeanie went to court to block that saying that the controlling owner always has to be a director and the trust says she is the controlling owner. Johnny withdrew the request and canceled the proposed meeting to vote on new directors.

While this is the first salvo, Jeanie’s attorney told the Los Angeles Times it likely is not the last.

There are six Buss children in the trust. Johnny is the eldest (and has been long rumored to want more power), and he seems to have allied himself with Jim. Jeanie remains the controlling owner and for most Lakers’ fans the face of ownership. Joey and Jesse are respected parts of the Lakers basketball operations side, working their way up the ladder — they reportedly were in the room with Magic and helping make decisions during the trade deadline. Then there is Janie, who used to run the team’s youth foundation but reportedly has been more active in recent years.

The rest of the team is owned by a variety of minority owners, the largest of which is AEG (which also owns Staples Center).

If four of the six Buss children lined up against Jeanie, it could be tough for her to maintain power.

The drama here is far, far from over. Shakespeare better have his quill ready.

 

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.