Kobe Bryant Calls Out Lakers Front Office, Questions Culture Under Jim Buss
Kobe Bryant yesterday "took aim at the Lakers' front office in regards to the team's future," according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN L.A. Bryant, who spoke during a Lakers press conference announcing his knee injury would keep him sidelined the rest of the season, said, "I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team. What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there and from there, you can start building out your team accordingly." Bryant was asked to clarify what "the top" meant, and "pointed to" Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss and Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss. Bryant: "You got to start with Jim. You got to start with Jim and Jeanie and how that relationship plays out." Bryant offered "perhaps his most direct criticism of the Lakers' organization" since the summer of '07. He said that he has "'not one lick' of patience for the Lakers' management team" of Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak "to rebuild the team into a contender." Bryant added that he would "like to be looped in more often by the Lakers' powers that be" (ESPNLA.com, 3/12). NBA TV's Rick Fox, who played seven years in L.A. with Bryant, said, "He’s more frustrated about a lack of communication on ... the clear plan of where they are going." Fox: "He’s wise enough to see that this isn’t a reload this summer. ... There is a defined plan, and that’s what is frustrating Kobe Bryant, because usually he has been consulted at this point in time about the plan" ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 3/12).
SIGN OF THE TIMES: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes Bryant's comments were a "stunning reminder of the slow decay of the Lakers since the passing of revered Jerry Buss." Plaschke: "Can you imagine any player ever criticizing him the way Bryant just criticized his children?" (L.A. TIMES, 3/13). Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding said, When you lose a leader like Jerry Buss, it’s hard to recover. ... When you have Jim and Jeanie kind of sharing control and no strong leader, there’s a feeling like, ‘We’re just floating along and we need something to latch on to.’” NBA TV's Greg Anthony said ownership has "taken more of a hands-on approach, which was not necessarily the case when Jerry Buss was running this organization." He would let the "basketball people make basketball decisions" (“NBA Gametime,” NBA TV, 3/12). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "Jimmy Buss does not equal Jerry Buss. I don't trust Jimmy Buss, and I don’t know if Kobe Bryant does either, to put a product on the floor next season" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/12). Meanwhile, in L.A., Jill Painter writes the Lakers "need to be fixed," and Basketball HOFer Phil Jackson "isn't the answer anymore, only because he's unavailable." The Lakers "let Jackson get away twice ... for those of you keeping score of all the things Jim Buss has bungled in his tumultuous tenure" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/13).
I DREAM OF JEANIE? In California, T.J. Simers writes the "overwhelming opinion seems to be" Jeanie Buss "should be running the Lakers." But as soon as Jackson "decided to quit as coach and the Lakers hired Mike Brown, she abandoned the team." She "stopped going to games" and "made it clear to everyone who knows where she sits in Staples that without Jackson she didn’t have an interest in watching the Lakers." Her "top priority is marketing" the team. Simers: "Do fans really want her to be the final word in who the Lakers acquire, trade or draft?" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/13).