An ESPN.com story yesterday highlighted several issues inside the Lakers, but what is "most troubling" is that Lakers Controlling Owner & CEO Jeanie Buss has "known about all of it and still sees" the Rob Pelinka-led front office as the "best group to lead L.A. out of the basketball wilderness," according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. Buss has "seen the in-fighting, the backroom dealings" and the "chilly relationship the front office shared with a coach she pledged to believe in." Perhaps the Lakers "will have a strong offseason." But the team right now is a "sinking ship, and the crew inside is blasting holes in it." Buss "knows there is a problem" and she is the "only one who can fix it" (SI.com, 5/28).
BUSS' NEXT MOVE: ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said he is "not going to say definitively" that Buss has set the franchise back "because it's not a finished product." But he added it is "certainly on the radar." Smith: "It's going toward that way and you better hope that this latest move works." ESPN's Domonique Foxworth: "They are in bad shape, but they are still in a position to get what they want. Once they don't get it, I would say they are ruined, but I wouldn't put it all on Jeanie Buss" ("First Take," ESPN, 5/28). NBA TV's Tas Melas said the Lakers used to be a "very strictly-run family business ... and now it's a not-so-strictly-run family business, and that's the problem." Melas: "It's a top-down problem." He added Buss is "either clueless or has too many people whispering in her ear, or she's mentally checked out from running it" ("The Starters," NBA TV, 5/28). Former NBAer Matt Barnes said of Buss, "It's really showing where she lacks. ... Her inexperience is showing" ("Speak for Yourself," FS1, 5/28). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "Ultimately this lands on Jeanie Buss because she has made bad hires and has not been able to get anything to run smoothly" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/28). Meanwhile, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league has "tremendous confidence" in Buss. Silver: "I know Jeanie knows how to manage a team. Sure, when things start to go wrong, a lot of fingers get pointed and people like to pile on, but they'll figure it out" ("Get Up," ESPN, 5/29).
WHAT HAPPENED? In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes for "most of the last two years, the question facing the NBA's most glamorous franchise" has been "which superstar is going to sign with the Lakers?" But in recent months, the question has "dramatically changed" to "why would any superstar want to sign with the Lakers?" Would anyone "want to forge a lengthy business partnership in the prime of their career with a franchise owned by a confused Jeanie Buss, abandoned by a frustrated Magic Johnson, run by a domineering LeBron James, and operated under the heavy hand of a distrusted Rob Pelinka?" Superstars "want a championship culture" and a "stable front office." The Lakers are "not even close" (L.A. TIMES, 5/29). YAHOO SPORTS' Ben Rohrbach wrote under the header, "The Lakers Are Somehow Far More Dysfunctional Than We Even Imagined" (5/28).
PIVOTAL OFFSEASON: In California, Kyle Goon writes if the team "strikes out this summer" in trying to sign a big-name free agent and "has to reset with more one-year deals to preserve cap space, the stakes will become even higher with the clock ticking on the James era, and with a new power structure, the blame will fall on just a few shoulders" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/29). In N.Y., Kyle Wagner writes the Lakers' "immediate future rests largely on the team's ability to attract star players." Aligning those players' agents against the team "seems like bad business" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/29). CBSSN's Adam Schein said no free agents "worth their salt will sign with the Lakers" ("Time to Schein," CBSSN, 5/28). The Washington Post's Kevin Blackistone said, "Even though you're in L.A., what free agent is really going to want to come there into this mess?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/28).