Still, Jeanie’s comments on Jackson’s non-hiring and her belief that he would have done better with the Lakers than Mike D’Antoni weren’t the only thing that could drive a stake through the heart of the organization. At the same Time Warner event, which was attended by Jackson, Jeanie and Mitch Kupchak (but no Jim or Mike D’Antoni), the Lakers general manager referred to Jackson as a bit of a consultant, and those in attendance couldn’t help but notice the obvious chemistry between the two when engaging in conversation.
“Quite frankly, even though he doesn’t have an official role with us, he’s a consultant of sorts,” Kupchak said. “Jeanie, I’m sure, talks to him at night about basketball, I bump into him from time to time, so even though it may not be official, there is an existing relationship.”
This existing relationship in itself is troublesome. D’Antoni, who already has to be feeling insecure about his role with the team, is likely seeing Phil’s smirk in his sleep at this point. Wherever he turns, whoever he talks to, he can’t avoid Jackson. And the fact that Phil’s engaged to one of the Laker big wigs doesn’t help matters much. So how does this impact the team? If D’Antoni’s fragile psyche continues to wither after being bashed in repeatedly with Jackson questions, is he fully able to commit himself to the Lakers and succeed? Does the added pressure of knowing your employer has an “existing relationship” with the man that everybody thinks should have gotten your job push you over the edge? It’s not only possible, it’s likely. D’Antoni’s only human, after all.
D’Antoni isn’t the only one on the receiving end of this uncomfortable awkwardness, either. Jim Buss, the obvious outcast in the eyes of the fans, is quickly becoming a social pariah in Los Angeles. Matters are made worse by Jackson, too, who has had numerous instances where he’s said somewhat tongue-in-cheek comments about Buss. And he did so again on Wednesday.
“He traveled with the team in 01 or 02. Sometimes I’d leave him behind if he didn’t make the plane on time.”
Even though Jackson followed that up by clarifying that anybody who was late to the plane would get left behind, the mystic gaze and coy grin on his face suggests that there’s more there than a simple joke. That Jackson, who spends his nights next to Jeanie, might not be too fond of his future brother-in-law and the decisions he has made. And for someone with the popularity of Jackson, that immediately casts Jim Buss as the villain with no hope of reconciliation with his fanatic constituents.
And this is where things can be troublesome for the Lakers. Because if Jim and Jeanie can’t get on the same page now, how will they ever hope to do so in the future? While they don’t have to agree on every decision that’s made, and often times they won’t, when it’s made public it forces fans to take sides. And it forces players currently on the roster to do so as well (even though they won’t admit it), and potential free agents or prospects who might be thinking about joining the organization will have to consider it as well.
In the end, I don’t expect this to blow up into a scenario where we see the Lakers crumble and fall because a brother and sister don’t get along. But in the early stages of Jim and Jeanie’s reign as Laker leadership, there’s a Phil Jackson-shaped fissure that threatens to have serious long-term implications. So, like nearly everything else with the Lakers lately, all we can do is wait and see what happens. And, for now, hope for the best.
VIDEO: Jeanie Buss Discusses What-Ifs Regarding Phil Jackson And Talks Relationship With Jim Buss
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