Tag: Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Jim Buss defends Byron Scott as Lakers coach, “He has the Laker blood in him”


Byron Scott has been questioned as the Lakers’ coach for a lot of reasons. For using Kobe Bryant heavy minutes early last season, leading to health problems for the star. For using an old-school, dinosaur of an offense. For not using advanced metrics and analytics. For not developing players. The list goes on.

But he’s not being questioned — or at least doubted — by the one guy whose vote matters, co-owner Jim Buss.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in a couple different articles, Buss defended Scott and his job as coach.

“He has the Laker blood in him,” Buss said. “[Mike] D’Antoni and Mike Brown, they weren’t Lakers. They loved the Lakers and they tried their best and I think they’re both great coaches.”

“Having that history of the Lakers from the very beginning of when [the Buss family] bought the team, gives you such a family sense. He’s a coach, a brother,” said Buss. “He gets it. He’s a strong personality. He believes in himself and the Lakers.”

Laker blood? This sounds like the lines the late Al Davis used as the Raiders struggled — trumpeting some mystical bond in the organization over smart decision making.

Buss also said the Lakers are using analytics more than people realize.

“We’ve been using them for quite a long time. That’s basically [on] what I make all my decisions, is my own analytics.” Buss said the team has relied on an analytics staff for “six [or] seven years, but before that we were breaking down shot charts, everything we could get our hands on.”

What made the Lakers great for extended periods was not just that they had the resources of a big market (something the new CBA stripped from them to a degree), but also that they spent those resources wisely. They had the best coaches, they thought outside the box, they had a team identity then got players that fit it, they identified and went after talent before others caught on (trading for a young Kobe Bryant on draft day may be the best example).

The Lakers are rebuilding now and we’ll see over the coming years how their decision making works out with young players such as D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. What they Lakers have to show now — something that organizations such as Golden State, San Antonio and other elite teams have — is that the Lakers can develop those players. Do the Lakers have that infrastructure? Is Byron Scott the guy to do it? And what kind of team are they building, what is their identity?

The answers to those questions determine whether or not there is success. Not “Laker blood.”

Jim Buss heaps praise, hope on young Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers Draft Picks Press Conference

The big Laker story line this season revolves around Kobe Bryant — will he or won’t he?

The more important story line to the future of the Lakers is the development of their three young stars — D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.

Lakers co-owner Jim Buss spoke to the Los Angeles Times about all things Lakers — Buss is trying to raise his profile and grow his positive numbers among Lakers fans, but that’s another story — and he heaped praise on their three young stars. That starts with Russell — the Lakers didn’t take big man Jahlil Okafor and instead bet on the point guard out of Ohio State with the highest draft pick the Lakers organization has had since it selected James Worthy.

“We’ve got high aspirations for him,” Buss said. “We normally look to get bigs, but [Russell] was just that impressive, that we just didn’t feel right passing up on him.

“My enthusiasm for D’Angelo Russell, I have to curb it because I’m so excited about it. He could be anything in this league.”

The Lakers are very high on Russell — in a point guard driven league they see him growing into one of the elites. They are high on his potential and chose that over Okafor, who may not have the higher ceiling (that’s up for debate) but certainly has the higher floor. The Lakers rolled the dice that Russell is special.

As for Clarkson and Randle:

“(Randle is) a beast. He’s been working out with some ex-NBA players and handling himself very well. He’s super strong, very fit,” Buss said…

“Watching Jordan Clarkson develop [this summer], he’s followed that same path, how he got better and better every game,” Buss said.

Watching the three Lakers at Summer League, each of them showed moments of promise and lots of room for improvement — like all young players. Clarkson put up big numbers in Las Vegas but dominated the ball and didn’t work as well off it. Randle understandably looked rusty at times, showed that physicality and athleticism at other times, but worked too much in a straight line and needs more moves. Russell had a rough start to the Summer League as the game just seemed to move too fast, and he tried to do too much. But that’s Summer League, it is a place for development, what matters is how they grow as players from these early points.

The question is, do the Lakers have the infrastructure to develop these players? Is Byron Scott the coach to do that?

That is the story line that matters most for the Lakers next season, while we all talk about Kobe.

Jim Buss open to the idea of Kobe Bryant playing beyond this season

Kobe Bryant

Around the NBA, and certainly within the Lakers organization, the assumption is that this season will be Kobe Bryant’s last. He’s 37, going into year 20, the final season of a giant contract, and he’s had his last three seasons cut short due to major injuries. He hasn’t come out and said that he’s done after this year, but he’s hinted at it, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has said the Lakers are approaching the season as if this will be their last with the future Hall of Famer.

Not so fast, says Lakers part-owner and executive vice president Jim Buss. In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times‘ Eric Pincus, Buss says he’s very much open to the idea of Bryant sticking around beyond this year, if that’s what he wants to do:

On Thursday Jim Buss, part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations, spoke to The Times about the upcoming season, the team’s draft picks, his rebuilding plan — and what could be the final season of Bryant’s career.

“We’re going to approach it like it is, but that doesn’t mean it is,” Buss said of Bryant. “I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘This is it, Kobe, you’re done,’ because it’s not my decision, it’s his decision.”

Buss has received plenty of criticism for over-investing in the aging star, who just turned 37 as he heads into his 20th season.

“The man has done so much for the Lakers and the fans of the Laker nation, he deserves the money,” Buss said. “I don’t understand anybody trying to break down what I did for him. Let’s break down what he did for us, then say, what is he worth? To me, he’s worth that.”

So is this Bryant’s final year with the team? “My arms are like this,” Buss said, holding his arms wide open, about Bryant’s future.

“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role? We’ll explain the role, and if he still wants to do that and that’s how he wants to go out, that’s fine with me.”

Bryant has said he doesn’t want a Derek Jeter-esque farewell tour, and this talk is certainly leaving the door open for him to play in the future if he wants. Still, for Bryant to play for the Lakers beyond this year, a few things would have to happen. He’d have to be willing to take less money, which he’s been vocally against doing in the past. No matter what he’s done for the team over the last 20 years, they’re starting to get serious about a rebuild, and giving him another contract worth $20-plus million per season would defeat the purpose, even with the salary cap exploding.

He’d also have to agree to either come off the bench or accept a limited role. The Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick in June, with the idea being that he’s Kobe’s eventual replacement as the Lakers’ primary scorer. He won’t be able to assume that role or develop the way they want him to if Bryant is still taking 20 shots a game like he did last season.

Most crucially, Bryant will have to finish the season healthy, something he hasn’t done in three years. He had surgery on a torn Achilles in 2013, then re-injured the same leg in 2014, and had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff last season. At his age, with three serious injuries in three years, the idea of him playing another season is absurd if he doesn’t stay on the floor for this one.

So, yes, there’s still a possibility that Bryant will play beyond this year. That possibility will be there until he officially announces that he’s hanging it up. But the smart money is still on this being his final year, whether it’s his choice or not.