Lakers need to speak now to bring the peace

Lakers need to speak now to bring the peace
Bryant says he wants a winner now and not a 'long-range' plan. (Gina Ferazzi / LAT)

This city's most beloved sports storefront stands today covered in dripping eggs and nasty graffiti.

Standing outside on the street, eyes wild, mouth running, is star employee Kobe Bryant.

He is shouting into the darkened windows about lying, backstabbing and incompetence. He is screaming at the front door for someone to come outside and prove him wrong.

By now, the rest of Los Angeles is queasily gathered behind him and wondering.

Is anybody still in there?

Does anybody still own the Lakers?

Where is Jerry Buss?

Oh, yeah, that's right, he was in San Diego County, getting arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

Where is heir apparent Jim Buss?

Oh, yes, he was recently on the radio publicly questioning his head coach.

Where is daughter Jeanie Buss?

Oh, of course, she was on the radio defending the head coach, who also happens to be her boyfriend.

"That place is a mess," Bryant said of the Lakers on Tuesday during a radio interview with AM 570.

Gathered queasily behind him, it's hard to argue.

The family is being attacked by its adopted son, a player they have coddled and protected through one of the biggest sports scandals in this city's history.

Yet, so far, the family, does nothing.

Jerry Buss is essentially accused of lying about the teams' rebuilding effort.

Mitch Kupchak is essentially called worthless.

The entire organization is essentially cast as untrustworthy because of a supposed media leak.

Yet, so far, only darkness and silence.

If the Lakers want to maintain the respect of a community that has blindly given them their hearts, now is the time for them to turn on the lights and let the world know they're still here.

If Jerry Buss is still alive, now is the time for him to prove it.

He's done it before. His team has been under siege before, and he's always been the first one throwing himself in front of the door with some of the grandest gestures in NBA history.

Magic Johnson is mad? Buss fires a coach and begins a dynasty.

A city is bored? Buss approved the expensive acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal and the trading for draft pick Bryant.

A city is frustrated when O'Neal and Bryant can't win a title? Buss fires a coach and begins another dynasty.

OK, so the gestures haven't always been smart. Can we all finally agree that the trading of O'Neal may have cost the franchise at least one more shot at a championship? Have they won a playoff series since?

And, certainly, Buss' gestures have sometimes been overly sentimental. Can we agree that the return of Phil Jackson to oversee this depleted roster also hasn't been worth the time or money?

In the true flavor of his Hollywood image, Buss has soared and crashed and soared again.

But at least he's always leaped.

Today the Lakers are in desperate need of that leap.

Team officials said that nobody in the Buss family was doing interviews Tuesday, that they were not giving up on their rebellious superstar, but they did not want to talk about it.

That's too bad. There's some things the Laker Nation needs to hear.

However Buss wants to do it, he must figure a way to answer new and unsettling questions.

The first being, is Kobe Bryant right?

Did Buss really woo Bryant back to the team three years ago by promising he would immediately rebuild for a championship, even as he was warning Phil Jackson it would be a long-term process?

Will Buss do what it takes — can he do what it takes? — to help the Lakers compete for a championship before Bryant's contract can be terminated in two years?

The second question being, is Kobe Bryant fair?

Does Buss think Kupchak should take the fall for the Lakers' problems, and would he welcome Jerry West back to the organization as the boss?

By all accounts, the answer to that question is no. Buss, and by extension his son Jim, seem to completely support Kupchak.

Remember, it was Kupchak who loyally followed Buss' orders and traded O'Neal and never once complained. It is Kupchak who has represented the organization with calm throughout all the storms, protecting the owner while he's in Italy or at a poker table.

If Kupchak has the support of Jerry and Jim Buss, yet was still thrown under the bus by Bryant, that raises a third question.

Is the Buss family united in their stewardship of the Lakers?

There is some thought that Bryant would not dare be so publicly indignant without somebody watching his back. Could that person be Jackson, who lately has made a career of covering Bryant's back? And if that's the case, then wouldn't his girlfriend Jeanie also be in that camp?

So could the organization be split into two camps, two philosophies, Jerry and Jim versus Jeanie and Phil, the exact mess that Bryant was talking about?

Whatever their situation was before last weekend, the Buss' have been brought together now, united as the target for an angry superstar whose words are tugging at the enduring, endearing fabric they have spent their lives so carefully weaving.

Hey, Kobe, shut your yap, OK?

Jerry Buss, it's your turn.


Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to