Lakers owner Jeanie Buss let the world know who runs the famed franchise in a fiery interview about the direction of the team after Los Angeles’ awful season.
“Do they have final say? No. Are they running the team? No, no, not at all,” Buss told The Los Angeles Times about Lakers star LeBron James and his camp at Klutch Sports.
“I am controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m held accountable for every decision that’s made here.”
Buss’ bold statement came less than two weeks after Bleacher Report reported that the Lakers front office is internally blaming James and Anthony Davis for their failed Russell Westbrook experiment. The organization reportedly felt pressure from Klutch Sports Group, which also represents Davis, for the blockbuster trade that landed them Westbrook.
“I’m growing impatient just because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league. … When you spend that kind of money on the luxury tax, you expect to go deep into the playoffs,” said Buss, who admitted she is not happy nor satisfied with the current state of the team. “So, yeah, it was gut-wrenching for me to go out on a limb like that and not get the results that we were looking for.”
Buss acquired point guard Russell Westbrook in hopes of forming a Big 3 with James and Anthony Davis, who led the Lakers to a 17th title in the 2020 NBA bubble. James reportedly had a heavy hand in recruiting Westbrook, who had one of the worst offensive performances of his career in his debut season with Los Angeles.
“It’s normal when you have a top player or players you bounce things off of them, I think that’s smart business,” Buss said about James. “I want him to feel confident in the team, that we have the pieces to win a championship. He has to be happy. … I want to make sure that he’s happy.”
Buss still believes the Lakers can win another championship with James and Davis leading the charge.
“There’s no reason for me to think we can’t win with them,” she said. “Something that I learned from Phil Jackson is that there’s always a path to success. … Sometimes it might be a little bit harder than other times, … but you have to see the ability.”
Buss expressed that she decided to do the interview after being “in the background for too much” amid the Lakers’ struggles this season — in which the James-led Hall of Fame roster failed to make the play-in tournament, let alone the playoffs.
Last week, rumblings around the media saw personalities, including Stephen A. Smith, suggest that the Lakers should consider trading James, who is up for a contract extension Aug. 4.
Soon after, a report by The Athletic said if James ultimately decides against more seasons with the Lakers, Buss wouldn’t see his desire to play out the final season of his contract as a reason to consider trading him.
The Lakers president, though, emphasized to The Times that she will make difficult decisions, even if that means making changes.
“Absolutely, if we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” she said, later adding, “I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.
“We don’t like to be missing the playoffs, I understand the fans anger and frustration. I’ve got to make it better. “This last year was extremely disappointing … it was hugely disappointing. I feel like we let down Laker fans, and don’t want to do that again, and we’ve got to get it right.”
Last month, James addressed his contact situation in his end-of-season press conference — the same day the Lakers officially parted ways with their head coach, Frank Vogel — and said he had yet to discuss the matter due to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.