This morning, the L.A. Times released an exclusive interview of Jeanie Buss that was conducted by famed (and sometimes slandered) columnist Bill Plaschke. The main reason for the interview was for Buss to let everyone know that she shares fans’ anger and displeasure at how the 2021-22 season went. Of course, as is understood given its her pockets that are being affected, she framed that disappointment around the luxury tax that she had to pay with the team still making the playoffs after doing so.
However, Jeanie Buss covered a lot more topics than that. She also addressed Rob Pelinka, Kurt Rambis, and Linda Rambis, three of the most polarizing and possibly most powerful members of her front office.
While stating she has “complete confidence” in the front office as a whole, she said the following about vice president of basketball operations and general manager himself: Mr. Rob Pelinka.
“He is a person that is extremely smart, extremely strategic, everything he does is thoughtful and with purpose. … I have complete confidence that he can put together a roster and find a coach that is going to get us back to where we belong.”
Regarding Kurt Rambis, she didn’t really address how reported interfering in coaches meeting falls under his role as “senior basketball advisor”, but she did express just as much confidence in him as she did in Pelinka.
“I know that there’s been some unfair criticism of Kurt Rambis,” she said. “I want to remind people, he’s been involved in the NBA for close to 40 years, that he has been a part of championship teams both as a player and assistant coach, he is someone I admire for his basketball knowledge.”
As for Kurt’s wife, Linda Rambis — Buss’ long-time best friend — Buss defended her as well. Well, she didn’t so much as defend her as she just cleared the air that Linda has no influence on day-to-day basketball decisions.
“In terms of Linda Rambis, she does not have a role in the basketball department; her role is, as it’s been for the last almost 40 years, is as my advisor,” Buss said. “She and I have worked together for years and years and years. Why that has become an issue for people, I don’t understand.”
Buss further clarified Linda’s role with the team (defined as director of special projects), painting a picture of Linda being a bit of a liaison and primary contact for new and current players with the team:
Buss was reminded of the murmurings from basketball insiders claiming Linda Rambis was involved in free-agent signings. She responded that Linda Rambis deals with players only after they sign, helping them and their families adjust to life in Los Angeles.
“Every team has somebody like that, in our case it’s Linda. … She’s done that for over 30 years with the Lakers,” Buss said. “Not like all of a sudden she’s become the assistant general manager, that’s not true.”
The defense of these pillars of the front office will probably anger Lakers fans even more than they already are. It makes it seem like these people, who are just as much close friends of Buss’s as they are employees of her’s, have the coldest seats imaginable with immense job security.
However, she did say “changes” will be made if this type of disappointment continues in the future.
“We don’t like to be missing the playoffs, I understand the fans anger and frustration,” she said. “I’ve got to make it better.”
Even if this means eventually making changes?
“Absolutely, if we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” she said, later adding, “I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.”
Some other tidbits from the article include the following:
- Jeanie Buss strongly reenforced Rob Pelinka’s words from the days of exit interviews that LeBron James has an influence on decisions, but that he’s absolutely not a final decision-maker. She also said she is striving to do whatever it takes to make LeBron happy.
- She addressed the fact that Magic Johnson still has a say in the organization (responding “Absolutely” to the idea of it existing) despite his abrupt resignation as president of basketball operations at the end of the 2018-19 season. She said she appreciated his honesty, but that she wished it went “a little bit different”, adding that she “would never want him to stay in a job where he wasn’t happy.”
- Jeanie Buss also addressed the recently reported influence that Phil Jackson has with her, confirming it, while noting that people see them around having meals together but also going out of her way to note that it’s “nothing romantic” which is definitely something that should be noted with an external decision-maker in your multi-billion dollar company.
- She stated that she has no plans to sell the team. Now or ever.