NBA rumors were running rampant prior to the NBA trade deadline regarding a variety of potential mega-deals that the Los Angeles Lakers were said to be involved with. None of those marquee transactions took place, but Lakers rumors have been far from quiet since then. Los Angeles can’t make any trades in the near future, but they can certainly shake up their management team — and they have done so with the kind of drama and fanfare you’d expect of a team playing just a few miles from Hollywood.
When Dr. Jerry Buss died and passed the mantle of ownership on to his daughter, Jeanie, in 2013, no one could have foreseen the recent events that have rocked the Lakers franchise. In a series of bold moves, Jeanie Buss fired general manager Mitch Kupchak, communications director John Black, and perhaps most shockingly, her brother Jim, who held the title of executive vice president of player personnel. Jeanie Buss then promoted team advisor and former Lakers superstar Magic Johnson to the position of president of basketball operations, as described by ESPN.
Little time was wasted by Jeanie Buss when it came to filling the general manager position, as she tabbed Rob Pelinka to man the GM spot. Pelinka is a former college basketball player and sports agent, known for his long-time representation of Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, per Basketball Insiders. Jeanie Buss made these moves after she became aware of a coup that was being planned by her brothers, Johnny and Jim Buss. Jeanie was confident that her brothers’ attempt to overthrow her from the top position within the Los Angeles Lakers would not be successful, but she also did not want to see this legal wrangling end in a very dramatic and public way: with the Buss siblings opposing each other in court.
The final straw, according to SB Nation, may have been the perceived mishandling of the potential DeMarcus Cousins trade. Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac (ironically, another former Lakers star) reportedly contacted Magic Johnson about a possible deal for Cousins, but Johnson referred Divac to then-GM Mitch Kupchak, who had the authority to discuss and agree to trades. Kupchak and Jim Buss spoke with Divac over the phone, but they did not include Johnson in any of the brief trade discussions.
Jeanie Buss was upset when she found out that Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak failed to close a deal for Cousins, while leaving Magic Johnson completely out of the loop. Johnson was in New Orleans that weekend for the NBA All-Star festivities, as was Vlade Divac, so the two could have met face-to-face to discuss the parameters of a DeMarcus Cousins trade. Jeanie Buss allegedly felt that a rare opportunity had slipped through the Lakers’ hands (to acquire arguably the best center in the NBA) due to a lack of inclusion and communication.
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By taking the drastic step of remaking her front office in one fell swoop, Jeanie Buss has made a couple of things abundantly clear: she is running the Los Angeles Lakers, and she will lead the franchise in the way she sees fit. Bleacher Report reveals that at the end of the day, Jeanie Buss favors open communication and all-out loyalty to the Lakers more than anything else — including blood relations, as evidenced by the decision to fire her brother, Jim.
Now that the dust has cleared on the sweeping management changes within the Los Angeles Lakers organization, there remains the work of putting together a winning basketball team. FanSided opines that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have a “mess to clean up” with respect to the team’s roster. The Lakers have a nice core of young talent, but two recent moves that have been credited to Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are holding the team back: the signings of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov.
Deng has severely underperformed, particularly given his bloated contract — four years, $72 million. The NBA was turned on its ear when it was announced that Buss and Kupchak also gave a four-year, $64 million deal to journeyman center Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov is averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for Los Angeles, and those numbers are very near his career averages. Mozgov is essentially a decent backup center, but Buss and Kupchak inexplicably broke the bank to sign him. Now, Magic Johnson will be tasked with minimizing the damage caused by these failed acquisitions.
Because of the Lakers’ history and location in one of the world’s leading media markets, NBA rumors will continue to follow the team’s every move. However, this is an especially critical time for the franchise with the front office and a player roster both in transition. The Lakers aren’t winning on the basketball court right now, but they may be leading the NBA in drama and intrigue.
[Featured Image by Danny Moloshok/AP Images]