No matter what's happening, it's clear what's not happening. The Lakers aren't being run with the same calm focus that once made Buss the best owner in professional sports. It is unknown whether it is an ailing Buss who has lost that focus or whether his lieutenants are running amok in his absence, but something has changed.
It is hard to imagine that the vision that Jerry Buss used to build 10 championships would have been involved in the three biggest reasons for this team's sudden downfall: the strange hiring of Mike Brown, the sudden firing of Mike Brown and the refusal to hire Phil Jackson to replace him.
Where is the general manager?
Mitch Kupchak is one of basketball's finest minds, and against all odds has proven himself to be a worthy successor to Jerry West. He could easily fill the void left by Buss' lengthening absence. But Kupchak has been busy baby-sitting the boss' son, Jimmy Buss, in the manner that David Spade once had to mentor Chris Farley in "Tommy Boy."
There is a feeling that if Kupchak had complete basketball power, the Lakers wouldn't be in this mess. That could happen only if Jeanie Buss were given complete control of the team, which many of the Lakers partners and city's power brokers are hoping happens.
But, for now, as long as Jimmy Buss has his father's blessing as the basketball boss, Kupchak must share that throne, and the ball is dropped on hiring Jackson, and a coach who is physically struggling and systematically questionable is dropped on the bench instead.
Where is the coach?
Mike D'Antoni's offensive system will not work with this aging roster. Period. D'Antoni's defensive system has never worked at a championship level. Period. If D'Antoni doesn't alter his philosophy, the Lakers don't have a chance at a title before Bryant retires or skips town. Period.
Where is the future?
Everyone says the Lakers will be saved by the imminent return of Nash. So a 38-year-old point guard not known for his defense and no longer able to run like a kid is going to be the magic wand for this bad defense and chaotic running game? Really?
Some say the Lakers will be saved by trading Gasol for a younger and more athletic forward. So you're going to ship out a two-time champion and legitimate 7-footer who can thrive in the right system? Really?
The answer, if there is one, is in adjustments. From the coach changing schemes to Bryant giving up shots, to Howard working on free throws, to Gasol wiping that dour look off his face, to Kupchak somehow finding a better bench. Everyone is going to have realize that, while this will not be the season they expected, it's still a season that can be saved, as long as they're willing to sacrifice.
The Lakers' equipment guys also need to adjust. You know how Bryant talks about those big-boy pants? They need to order 15 pairs. Now.