If I’ve learned anything about Jim Buss since the beginning of last season it’s that the only things he’s bad at are picking out clothes and managing his own reputation. He even admitted as much when he went on ESPN Los Angeles’ Mason and Ireland Show last March. Buss admitted that he was media-shy and that he would make a greater attempt to connect with the fans so they would know more about him.
In fact, if you were to search the L.A. Times archives for articles about Jim Buss the majority of the search results would relate to Buss’ time in the 80s as president of Major Indoor Soccer League’s Los Angeles Lazers. I remember listening to every word of that radio interview and coming away with nothing but a newfound respect for him. What sticks out in my mind was how he recited each of the incremental luxury tax penalties that will come with the repeater tax in 2014, from memory.
What that told me was that this guy was no dummy. That he had one eye on the present and one on the future. Every move the Lakers have made over the last few summers has been with 2014-15 in mind. Even after the Dwight Howard trade the only player the Lakers have under contract for 2014-15 is Steve Nash. So even though Nash isn’t as young as Chris Paul, he buys the Lakers time to compete for a ring while maintaining maximum flexibility in the post-Kobe era when free agents like Luol Deng, Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger, and possibly James Harden could be available.
**Harden and the other 2009 draft picks, like Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings, are already eligible for extensions. Those who don’t sign extensions can become restricted free agents next summer. Those who choose to accept the qualifying offer next summer instead of testing restricted free agency will become unrestricted free agents in 2014 — the same summer when the Lakers have nobody but Steve Nash (and hopefully Dwight Howard) under contract.
**By the way, the 2015 free agent class, the one that might be counted on to replace Nash, features Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker.
T.J. Simers wrote an article in the LA Times last week entitled, “Jim Buss Gets The Last Laugh.” And while it was nice of T.J. to acknowledge the job that the younger Buss has done in the enormous shadow that his father has cast, T.J. is as responsible as anyone for Jim’s awful reputation. But T.J.’s article features this quote from Jim about what his dad told him from his post-surgery hospital bed after the trade parameters had been agreed upon:
“So I tell [my father], and then I get an, ‘Incredible job, Jim,’ from him, and let me tell you, that erases all the insults and anything else anyone has to say. To help make him comfortable and happy, that’s what I work for.”
Jim and Mitch’s reward for their hard work is a 2013 off-season that will allow them to devote 90 percent of their attention to re-signing Dwight Howard. The other 10 percent will be devoted to whether or not they should use the amnesty on Steve Blake or Metta World Peace and to which of their free agents — all of whom are no better than the team’s sixth-best player — they should bring back.
This has been an incredible off-season for Lakers fans. The team acquired two future Hall of Famers as well as valuable bench pieces like Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. But above all else, they may have acquired peace of mind. The fortunate son who we once thought was the Buss family’s Fredo, the one who will be piloting this ship for the next 20 or 30 years, might actually be it’s Michael.