Jim Buss continues to say some crazy things, but at what cost?

The Los Angeles Lakers are something, right? Not only from a historical perspective, but in the sense that we always expect them to bounce back from disastrous seasons and develop a roster with at least a few stars roaming the hardwood. Then again, all of those thoughts subconsciously placed into our craniums over the years feel so yesterday — or, at least, in the pre-Jim Buss era.

Today, people have no second thoughts about describing the Laker franchise in stark and mortal terms. The days of simply “expecting” the Lakers to be great just because they are the Lakers are gone. In its place are question marks about the front office’s capability to put together a roster; Kobe Bryant being older than a dinosaur fossil being found in the depths of L.A.’s own La Brea tar pits; and the sanity of Jim Buss.

It makes sense, too. Since 1979, the Los Angeles Lakers have always been the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet, they aren’t totally that now, because a new regime has been ushered in and there is no proof it will succeed. Basically, since Jim Buss has taken over his family’s dynasty, mostly negative adjectives have been attached to his work and — to be fair — he has done himself no favors to squash the sad faces in Hollywood.

Without going back any further than this offseason, Buss has openly discussed letting Jelly Bean Jr. play for the Lakers after his contract runs out, despite Kobe’s inability to be the Kobe many of us knew while also lacking that certain intangible which helps make other players better. He has also backed Byron Scott, a coach with a proven track record of ho-hum to below-ho-hum success after his two aberrationally good seasons in New Jersey. The younger Buss, trying to carry the torch Jerry passed on to him, has backed Scott in a way that would make one assume the former Laker shooting guard was the third coming of Bill Murray (the second coming was/is Vince Vaughn/Chris Evans/Ryan Reynolds/{insert supposedly witty actor here}).

Beyond all this, we have yet to mention the rumors of the Lakers attempting to bring back Metta World Peace from curing communism overseas.

So, yeah, Jim Buss seems to be a disaster, drenched in the same Lakers euphoria which makes the fan base think players can win NBA titles simply by donning the purple and gold.

Where does this leave the franchise? It’s an urgent question, but does it have a clear answer?

I’m not sure how we would (or wouldn’t, really) view Jim Buss’s reign of incompetence if he were the ruler of any other NBA franchise, but that is what I have been trying to do. Would we — fans, media, etc. — view his ineptitude in the same light if he ran some small market team at the bottom of the NBA (Sacramento, cough, cough), the same way we do his inability to keep the Lakers’ “awesome every single year” train running?

Even while attempting to do so, though, it hasn’t really changed my opinions on the matter. Jim Buss, whether presumably running a historically great organization straight to afterthought status, or pretending he was doing so with the Club State Pool Cleaners, makes bad choices — and, just as importantly, his explanations for his actions are rooted in the worst places. Jim Buss makes major decisions on his roster, coaching staff, and other basketball-related matters based on his own fandom.

In the same way we giggle at out friends in NFL fantasy leagues for drafting all of their favorite team’s players, despite the running back coming off 142 ACL surgeries, we point and scoff at Jim Buss. He is, after all, more similar to Billy (your accountant friend) who drafted Shaun Alexander in a league draft a few years ago only days after he retired (this is a true story).

You see, Jim Buss can’t see past the history, glory and tradition of the Lakers because he has been entrenched in its scope, power and aura for far too long. Just like a random Lakers fan running around telling folks Kobe is still the GOAT, Buss is doing the same. He can’t separate the real world of basketball operations from being a Laker diehard. While that latter detail is almost an admirable trait for an owner (ALMOST…), it is the same reasons the Washington NFL team, the R’s (we’re not going to use the full name, out of respect for our Native American brothers and sisters), are abominations in pro football: Daniel Snyder can’t separate fiction from fact (obviously, there are some moral differences).

Snyder is a fan of the Redskins first, damn the hard decisions other people need to be entrusted with. Snyder and Buss both want to be fans of their teams yet also control everything which goes on. You can’t have it both ways — certainly not that way. Jerry Buss allowed credentialed basketball people such as Jerry West and Pat Riley, and later Phil Jackson, to give birth to glorious periods in the history of a legendary franchise. Jim Buss hasn’t yet learned from his daddy.


Many moons ago I was given some advice. I was told to try to get in a career where “you love what you do.” At the same time, however, I was warned to not “let it define you as a person.” I think Jim Buss loves what he is doing, yet has let the Lakers’ aura be incorporated so much into his DNA that the rest of the world is passing him by. He has allowed his work to define him as a person, and the inability to achieve that fundamental separation between work and personhood — loving the work, but keeping it strictly business, removed from fanboy passions — is what so clearly marks Jim Buss’s tenure in LakerLand.

There may — and probably will — come a day when the Lakers go back to the top of the mountain and reign supreme for a bit. The NBA will again look more like what it has most closely resembled throughout its history: a league dominated by the Lakers of the world. However, that future moment won’t happen because of Jim Buss — not directly at least. It will happen when he finally separates his Laker fandom from the Lakers’ reality, or possibly gives up enough control in running the Lakers so someone else can do it for him.

I believe in second chances, giving people time to adjust to their jobs or slotting in life. Yet, every time Jim Buss utters a word, it makes me feel sick in my belly because of its absurdity. Laughter pours out of my mouth like milk being sucked out of a bottle by a baby, and there is no end in sight.


Lakers fans might feel like their team is predetermined to be great, and that it is only a matter of time before the Lakers are great again. History says it is true.

However, that history wasn’t written by Jim Buss — and until Buss gets that baby off the formula and starting to drink out of sippy-cups, there is no curable end to the sad version of the Lakers we see today.

Unfortunately and obviously, the biggest issue the Lakers have is not something that can be fixed (but will certainly be helped) by drafting a superstar player, or hurling large sums of money at a top-tier free agent; it actually happens to be the man who is running the entire show, and there is no clear end in sight because the person in charge of the show is sick with Laker-colored hysteria.

At least we get to giggle and whatnot at that funny man…

I miss you, competent-to-great Los Angeles Lakers. I miss your smell, your aura, and other great, historical things which make you special.

I have a feeling Jim Buss does too… which, again, is kind of the problem.

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.