“What we’re accustomed to is playing for championships or everything else is a complete failure.” Those were the sentiments Kobe Bryant uttered back in March, frustrated by an embarrassing sub .500 record and calling for change within the organization. “You gotta start with Jim and Jeanie and how that all relationship plays out and it starts there and having a clear direction and clear authority.”
Fast forward, three months later. James Worthy represents the Lakers at the NBA draft. Jeanie Buss was very much involved with pitching Carmelo Anthony and Kupchak, Jim Buss, and company have been as aggressive as their financial flexibility allows in landing one of the top NBA free agents in 2014. And, while the Lakers may not wind up stealing the very sought after Anthony from the free agency pool, the idea that they’ve clearly made quite the impression on Anthony is something most doubted before their meeting.
“They’re going for it. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. They’re being extremely aggressive. They have solid concepts and plans to be able to get it done,” Bryant confidently gushed at his Basketball Academy. “They’re pulling out all the stops to make sure that we put a contender out there next year, and that’s all you can ask for.”
The Lakers are patiently awaiting Anthony’s decision, waiting for the dominoes to fall before they put Plans B, C, and D into effect, confident they are at the very least a valid contender in the Anthony race. If the dominoes don’t fall in their favor with Anthony, the Lakers will be looking to their financial flexibility in future years to rebuild, as there won’t be much left on the table after the waiting game concludes.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has been quick to remind us of the Lakers financial flexibility in the years to come, somewhat prepping fans for the harsh reality that a rebuild could take several years. Three months ago, Bryant said he didn’t have the patience for rebuilding years, wanting change this summer. On Wednesday, Bryant stuck to his impatient moniker, but with an asterisk.
“The organization, if God forbid we end up with absolutely nothing, it’s not for lack of effort. That is something I would be extremely proud of.”
As for Jim and Jeanie Buss, Bryant’s no longer calling for change. No longer motioning for clear authority and direction. Whether he’s truly convinced of their solid partnership over the past three months or he simply understands how important it is to paint the picture of solid and cohesive management, his most recent vote of confidence is all in on Jim and Jeanie.
“I know Jim and Jeanie are on the same page. They’re ready to go. They both understand what they need to do individually and how that works together as a unit and turn this organization around.”
And, Bryant also understands his role individually through this process, being a public symbol of confidence for an organization whose image and reputation has walked a fine line, since the passing of the late Dr. Buss. An image and reputation that can help be repaired, at least in part, by the public support of Bryant in the final two years of his career.
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