The Lakers missed the playoffs for the fist time since 2005, and just the second time in the last 20 years. They probably wished they missed them last season too, given the way they were thumped in four straight games with Kobe Bryant lost to injury.
Los Angeles is a franchise built on consistent championship contention, and falling short of that in consecutive seasons is far from acceptable. Jim Buss is part owner of the Lakers, but has complete responsibility for running the basketball side of things, and knows as well as anyone just how high the expectations are.
Maybe that’s why he’s willing to find someone else for the job if the team doesn’t regain its historically lofty status over the next few years.
Her older brother Jim Buss, 54, in charge of the Lakers’ basketball operations, spoke up in the boardroom of the team’s El Segundo training facility and pledged to resign in a few years if the suddenly dark fortunes of the franchise weren’t reversed.
“I was laying myself on the line by saying, if this doesn’t work in three to four years, if we’re not back on the top — and the definition of top means contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship — then I will step down because that means I have failed,” he told The Times about the meeting. “I don’t know if you can fire yourself if you own the team … but what I would say is I’d walk away and you guys figure out who’s going to run basketball operations because I obviously couldn’t do the job.”
Most outsiders question whether Buss is indeed the right person for the job, but there’s been no real misstep under his watch. The last two coaching decisions were made in part by Dr. Jerry Buss, who has since passed away.
The next two off seasons are critical to the Lakers’ rebuilding plans. There is salary cap room available to pursue stars in free agency, and the team has a lottery pick in what is believed to be a deep draft this summer.
The opportunities will be there for L.A. to lure free agents, and to build a contending roster to surround Bryant in his final two years under contract. The stakes have never been higher, but if Lakers fans take Buss at his word, at least he’ll be gone if the moves that he makes fail to turn the franchise around.