The year former Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss handed over basketball operations to his son Jim Buss, the Lakers had one of their worst seasons in franchise history. With Buss at the helm, the Lakers chose to hire Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson, they spent $100 million on a roster that barely made the playoffs only to be swept in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs and they lost Dwight Howard after putting up much criticized and arguably pathetic-looking billboards across Los Angeles practically begging for Howard to re-sign with them.
Unfortunately for Lakers fans there are no improvements in sight. Buss may continue to destroy the Lakers franchise. And he may take Kobe Bryant down with him.
Although Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale encourages Buss to “make his own name” as a Lakers owner, that’s the worst thing Buss can do.
One reason why Dr. Buss had so much success as a Lakers owner was because he believed in a non-intrusive, hands-off kind of ownership role. Dr. Buss hired smart people he trusted to win championships. So … surprise! He won championships … a lot of them.
Making your “own name” implies taking on an active role. In the case of Buss, that would mean making decisions for the Lakers’ basketball operations, something Buss is already well known for doing and something he’s failed miserably at so far. It was reportedly Buss’ decision to hire D’Antoni (even though Buss likes to remind us that his dad — who lay on his deathbed at the time — gave him the green light to do so); it was his decision to sign the now 40-year-old Steve Nash, whose injuries and age have hurt the Lakers more than helped them; it was Buss’ ineptitude that caused the Lakers to lose their self-proclaimed future-of-the-franchise star Dwight Howard.
Buss’ failures are not only failures for the Lakers and Lakers fans but for their star, Bryant. If Buss continues to make big decisions for the Lakers, he’ll not only destroy the franchise — he’ll destroy Bryant’s career too.
Buss may have already started the destruction. Buss hired D’Antoni, who’s mostly to blame for Bryant’s torn achilles since he recklessly played Bryant more than 45 minutes per game in the five consecutive games leading up to the injury. By hiring such an ignorant leader as your head coach, and allowing him to continue with his ignorance without reprimand, Buss also shares the blame for Bryant’s injury.
Should Buss try and make a name for himself by making more decisions — something D’Antoni, the hobbled Nash, the injured Bryant, the Houston Rockets’ new center Howard and the Lakers 2012-13 nightmare season proves he’s horrible at — Buss will destroy the future of the Lakers franchise. With the end of his career already in sight, Bryant may be able to do nothing more than suffer the losses and the shame before retiring.
But there’s hope. Buss must avoid trying to make his own name. Instead, he must let others make his name for him. He already has smart people like Mitch Kupchak working for him. The best Buss can do is listen to them. Maybe even hire more smart people. Perhaps he can start with Phil.