The Buss family dynamic has been a major cloud over the Los Angeles Lakers ever since Dr. Jerry Buss passed away. Most recently, it came into play when controlling owner Jeanie Buss fired her brother Jim from his position as President of Basketball Operations, replacing him with Magic Johnson.
Jim Buss’ death knell had begun ringing years in advance when the longtime front office member made the guarantee that the Lakers would be in the playoffs in three years, setting an unlikely deadline for the Lakers to reach.
Jeanie appeared on the Inside of You podcast with Michael Rosenbaum and spoke about what led to that deadline, something that was initially only based on her need for a timeline on the business end of things:
“We had this private family meeting where I asked my brother how long until we’re back in the playoffs. Just tell me so that I could manage the cash flows and how things are going to go. […] He could have said a year, he could have said 10 years. I just needed to know so that I could plan. He told me three years. And I said ‘OK, if we’re not back in the playoffs at the end of the three years, then I’m going to have to make some changes.'”
Jeanie went on to say that Jim later told the media about that deadline which was basically the beginning of the end for him. After making that guarantee public, Jim made it difficult for his sister not to make changes when it did not bear fruit.
The deadline was really the worst decision that Jim Buss made. It led to hasty decisions like giving Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng big contracts that have led to further consequences like trading D’Angelo Russell to dump Mozgov’s contract.
The Lakers are desperate to get back to the playoffs, of course, but Jim Buss effectively ended any chances of a slow but sustainable rebuild by declaring his public deadline.
Now the question is whether Magic Johnson can do damage control and get the Lakers out of this rebuild without making any more big mistakes.