Jeanie Buss isn’t happy that the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t in the playoffs, and the team’s owner said that she has gotten input from some familiar faces — including Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson and, yes, LeBron James — as to how the team can get back there.
“If we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” Buss told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Tuesday. “I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.”
After missing the playoffs with a 33-49 record, the Lakers, who had the NBA’s fourth-highest payroll, fired coach Frank Vogel in April. While general manager Rob Pelinka is the point man for the organization’s search for a replacement, sources told ESPN last week that Buss, Jackson and longtime advisor Kurt Rambis also are a significant part of the conversations to vet candidates.
Jackson, the Hall of Fame coach, won five of his 11 NBA championships during his two tenures with the Lakers. He also is Buss’ former boyfriend.
“People see us around town, we have breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever … it’s not anything romantic,” Buss told the LA Times. “He’s somebody that knows this environment and knows the challenges I have and wants to see the Lakers successful, so he’s somebody I know doesn’t have any other agenda than for the Lakers to be successful, so he’s somebody that I can lean on. “
Johnson, the team’s legendary Hall of Fame player who hastily stepped down as Lakers president in 2019 amid insinuations of “backstabbing,” also has had Buss’ ear during this time.
When asked by the LA Times if she was again relying on Johnson’s advice, Buss said: “Absolutely.”
“Bottom line, the Lakers are important to him and he wants the Lakers to win, and he wants the Lakers to be on top,” Buss told the Times. “I know that’s in his heart, and I trust him, and … my relationship with him is as good as it’s ever been.”
Buss said she also is seeking input from James, her star player that she hopes is “happy” enough to stay with the Lakers moving forward.
“It’s normal when you have a top player or players, you bounce things off of them,” Buss told the LA Times. “I think that’s smart business.”
Buss, however, made it clear that the Lakers are still her team.
“Do they have final say? No,” Buss said when asked if LeBron and Klutch Sports are running the Lakers. “Are they running the team? No, no, not at all. I am controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m held accountable for every decision that’s made here.”
And that accountability apparently includes sticking with Pelinka, who has been with the team since 2017.
“In terms of basketball decisions, I have complete confidence in our front office, which is headed by Rob Pelinka,” Buss told the LA Times. “He is a person that is extremely smart, extremely strategic, everything he does is thoughtful and with purpose. … I have complete confidence that he can put together a roster and find a coach that is going to get us back to where we belong.”