Lakers will be back ‘on top’ in five years, Jim Buss says

Jim Buss
Lakers Owner and Executive Vice President Jim Buss says he sees his team back on top in the next five years despite failed attempts to lure big-time free agents like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James to Los Angeles last summer.
(Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images)

Lakers owner and Executive Vice President Jim Buss is confident the Lakers are on the right path back to success.

Where does he see the Lakers in five years?

“On top,” Buss told ESPN in a joint interview conducted in November with his sister, owner and President Jeanie Buss.

“I’m looking to him to make it happen, so I’d like to hear about that,” Jeanie Buss said in response.


Portions of the interview appear in the current issue of ESPN the Magazine.

The Lakers are currently 6-16, after winning just 27 games last season, their worst since moving to Los Angeles.

The team has an aging star in Kobe Bryant and an injured rookie in Julius Randle, out for the season with a broken leg.

“The pitch is we can go for two max players. And we have room to solidify the team with others,” Jim Buss said. “We can’t sell who we’re going to get because we don’t know yet, and it’s illegal to do that. We pursued LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony last summer.”


“Every free agent is unique and different. I don’t think they’re going to be in the same position or make the same decisions as those two players did. So I’m excited about free agency coming up in the next two or three years.”

James chose to return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving the Miami Heat, where he had won two titles. Anthony re-signed with the New York Knicks after flirting with the Chicago Bulls and Lakers this past July.

The Lakers may have in the neighborhood of $21 million in cap room this summer, but it will be closer to $12 million if the team takes the second option on Jordan Hill’s contract.

Projecting salaries for the summer of 2016 is difficult because the NBA has a new television deal kicking in that could lift the salary cap to an nearly $90 million, according to estimates. The league is hoping to smooth that amount, so the jump isn’t so dramatic, but the National Basketball Player’s Association has resisted any artificial measure to hold down salaries.

Next summer, players like Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol and possibly Kevin Love could all be unrestricted free agents. In 2016, Kevin Durant is expected to hit the market.

The current collective bargaining agreement is likely to expire after the 2016-17 season, obscuring any guess on what the Lakers might be able to do in the summer of 2017. As Jim Buss said, the franchise may have the room to lure two maximum salaried free agents in 2016, although that’s dependent on how much the Lakers spend in 2015.

“I know the next Magic Johnson is out there, the next Kobe Bryant is out there,” Jeanie Buss said. “We just don’t know who he is yet. But when he comes here, we’re ready for him. We have the best fans in the NBA. we have the best arenas. We have the best city.”

In the meantime, the Lakers hope to win their seventh game in 23 tries on Friday night, playing Tim Duncan and the champion Spurs in San Antonio.


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