In a red dress on the red carpet at the NBA awards show in Santa Monica on Monday night, Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss resisted her franchise’s most pressing subject.
“I really can’t answer questions for free agency,” she said.
The franchise, after all, has been fined twice in the last year for tampering with players who are still contractually bound to other teams. It happened once when the league found improper communication between general manager Rob Pelinka and the agent for Paul George, and another time it was merely because president of basketball operations Magic Johnson complimented Giannis Antetokounmpo.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver insists there is no lingering scrutiny on the Lakers because of the incidents.
“The Lakers were found to have violated the rules,” Silver said. “They paid a price for it and we’ve all moved on.”
While she showed caution in how she discussed free agency, Buss has her eyes on how the men she’s hired to run it operate.
“My message has been to the basketball community that the Lakers are serious about how we play basketball that’s why we opened up a new training facility that we invested in and that we partnered with UCLA health and is giving us resources that we’ve never had before,” Buss said. “What we’re trying to build is not only what we say with our words but also with our actions.”
Buss made clear she wants to be in the playoffs next year. She mentioned Lakers coach Luke Walton positively, saying he has defined Lakers basketball as a fast-paced style focused on sharing the ball and committing to playing as a team. In the past, Buss has grown frustrated by star players shunning the Lakers in free agency. This year has shown stars expressing interest in potentially joining the Lakers.
“It’s nice to be respected in the industry. I think we have to earn that respect, so it’s really about at the end of the day how many games we win and lose,” Buss said. “We’re not there yet and we’re not going to rest until we’re proud.”
And while she didn’t say whether she’ll have a role in Johnson’s and Pelinka’s pitches, she has made herself available if they need her.
“I have complete faith in our front office, no matter how they want to build the team, whether it’s through trades or free agency, trades or through the draft that they’re going to build on the style of play that you saw throughout this year,” Buss said.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli