TV analyst Magic Johnson has called out Lakers honcho Jim Buss, while also wondering in a tweet why Kobe Bryant isn’t doing the same every day.
In online excerpts from an interview Phil Jackson did with HBO, Jackson is asked why Jim Buss has “chosen to almost disassemble so much of what you’ve built?”
And now the Lakers don’t have a starting point guard on their roster, with Ramon Sessions opting out of his contract.
“Bring it on,” says Buss, “where do you want to start?”
What are the chances of the Lakers starting the season with Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol all in Lakers uniforms?
“Very good,” says Buss.
So you don’t agree with those who say the Lakers must turn Gasol into two or three players via a trade?
“No,” he says. “I think changes are going to be made moving Pau lower to the basket. We can improve that way with a change in coaching strategy rather than a change in personnel.”
“We will try to sign Sessions when the rules allow beginning in July,” he says. “And improve the bench.”
No major free-agent signings, no blockbuster trades?
“No,” he says.
Smelling salts, please, for Magic.
Magic was looking right into the ESPN camera when he told a national audience: “Jim Buss, brother, you have a job to do. I’m telling you right now because if you don’t do it, you’re going to hear from me.”
Buss laughs. “He’s got my phone number.”
To hear Magic talk, and this has to make Dodgers players nervous, he’s ready to blow up the Lakers because they failed to advance.
“He sounds like a TV analyst to me,” says Buss. “That’s his job to give opinions. I don’t have a problem with that, and like a good Lakers fan he just wants us to get better. So do I.”
Magic remains listed as a Lakers vice president, but the team says he’s not being paid for the honorary title. They therefore aren’t fined when he suggests they trade for Josh Smith or Dwight Howard.
“I would think Magic knows better than anyone,” says Buss, “when the Lakers lose the last game of the season, everyone here is going to do whatever they can to make improvements.”
In addition to his criticism of the Lakers, Magic let loose recently with a challenging tweet: “If I were Kobe, I’d be calling Jim Buss every day until the Lakers make some changes.”
Buss is surprised. “I’m in constant contact with Kobe and we’ll make sure Magic knows that,” he says. “We have the draft coming up and we’re trying to trade up into the first round. After the draft, Kobe and I will have a sitdown.
“He’s already had lunch with Mitch [Kupchak], and from what I’m hearing Kobe is pretty satisfied with this team. If I heard differently from Kobe, it would put some doubt into what I was thinking.
“But I’m hearing he believes this team kept together can do something. And he’s only got a short window of time remaining to win championships, so apparently he believes this group gives him the best chance to do so.”
Magic, while saying Mike Brown’s offense “drives him crazy,” went even further during the playoffs, saying Brown would be fired if the Lakers did not defeat Denver in the first round.
“That made me uncomfortable,” says Buss. “I don’t think that was right. That put Coach Brown in a tough spot and I wish he hadn’t done that.”
But then Buss isn’t surprised Brown has taken some heat.
“When you follow a Hall of Fame coach, I don’t know where you can be praised if you don’t win it all. If he lost in the Finals, he’d be criticized. But he does deserve time.”
Buss says he would have been more critical of the players than the coach had they lost to Denver, and he said Brown was never in danger of losing his job.
“On the contrary,” he says, “I think Brown did a fantastic job this year considering the shortened season, lack of practice time and following a Hall of Fame coach.”
Not so fast, says Jackson in his HBO interview, some of it running online and not making the TV segment.
In the interview, Jackson makes it sound as if Buss’ admiration for Bynum led to the demise of the Lakers.
“Gosh, I miss that guy,” says Buss when Jackson’s comments are relayed to him.
Jackson tells HBO that Buss “thought Bynum was gonna be a great pick for our team. But in the process, I think you know he wanted Andrew to have a bigger and bigger role. And I think he’s hired his coach to have Andrew have a bigger and bigger role.
“And that kinda disjointed the symmetry of what the Lakers were really about last year. ... It took Pau out of his game. And it took the team away from some of their game.”
I know it disjointed the symmetry of how Jackson might have liked it had he remained the Lakers’ coach.
“Phil Jackson is the best coach the NBA has ever had,” says Buss. “He did things his way and they worked beautifully for him. But we had to start over when Phil stepped down with a new coach and so things were going to be different.
“I’m not surprised he noticed,” Buss adds, and I’m sure that will inspire a Jackson grin.
As for Bynum, he became the West’s starting All-Star center, while also remaining a brat.
“I’ve bought into Phil’s philosophy that he’s growing up and he’ll be fine,” says Buss, but when will Bynum no longer be considered a kid?
“I expect Andrew to mature as a player and as a person this upcoming season,” he says, and now add dreamer to the list of what everyone seems to think of Buss.