It’s a popular theory around the NBA: Phil Jackson will keep collecting James Dolan’s paychecks and keeping Dolan out of basketball decisions (the most important part of his job) until his fiancée Jeanie Buss slides her brother Jim out of the job of running the Lakers’ basketball operations, then she will call Jackson and he will be on the next flight back out to L.A.
Jeanie Buss says don’t bet on it.
Buss was on the NBA A to Z Podcast with Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt at the USA Today, and among the interesting things she said is she has no plans to bring Jackson back to the Lakers. Especially not this summer.
Translation: despite recent speculation that she might expedite the timeline in order to bring her fiancé, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, back to the Lakers, there is no such covert plan as it relates to next summer. Jackson signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Knicks in March of 2014.
“It really isn’t about trying to get him back here (to the Lakers),” Buss said. “He is happy with what he is doing, and he … is up for the (Knicks) challenge, and he’s seeing the results of the work that he’s put in. But he has a ways to go.”
Bill Oram of the Orange County Register and I discussed this same topic in the PBT podcast that dropped Monday (it’s all about the Lakers). Our podcast focused a lot of the next move in terms of team building for the Lakers, starting with the coaching spot then rounding out the roster.
In that podcast Oram raised a good question: Should Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak be the guys to pick the next coach? Their last three choices (Mike D’Antoni, Mike Brown, Byron Scott) were poor, and there is a chance that a year after picking this new coach they could be on the outside and a new GM/front office regime (Jackson?) could come in.
Jeannie Buss was clear about one thing — she is holding her brother Jim to his self-imposed deadline of having the Lakers at least in the second round of the playoffs by 2017 or stepping aside.
“I think that (Jim Buss) was very sure of himself when he promised that timeline, and I think that he has everything he needs to fulfill that promise of getting the team back competitive,” Jeanie Buss said. “And when I say competitive, it’s competing for the Western Conference Finals, which would mean at least second round (of the playoffs) – if not more … They have earned the right to take the time that they’ve needed to put together what they want to have out on the court, and if they can’t do that then we have to reexamine how things are going.”
That timeline and Jim Buss wanting to keep his position and power could lead to some interesting moves this summer. Kevin Durant is not coming to the Lakers, but will the Lakers make moves that are more about getting good fast rather than building wisely for the longer term? Will they get a coach who can get them wins in the short run, or one with a history of strong player development looking at the big picture (Scott Brooks?).
The one thing Oram and I agree on — the Lakers need to look to someone outside the Lakers’ family to start making basketball decisions. What this organization did to succeed for decades no longer is working, and they have been slow to adapt to the changing environment. The Lakers need fresh blood.