It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2021-22 season didn’t go as planned as despite having championship aspirations, they missed the postseason altogether.
There are a number of factors and people to blame for the team’s failures, but it starts at the top with owner and governor Jeanie Buss.
While Buss is the ultimate decision-maker in the Lakers franchise, she is also very trusting of the people she has hired to work around her, typically being hands-off when it comes to basketball decisions.
Even though she puts trust in other people to run the front office such as Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis, that doesn’t mean Buss is any less disappointed with how the season went.
In an interview with Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times, Buss expressed frustration that she paid $45 million in luxury taxes just to miss the postseason:
“I’m growing impatient just because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league. … When you spend that kind of money on the luxury tax, you expect to go deep into the playoffs,” she told The Times. “So, yeah, it was gut-wrenching for me to go out on a limb like that and not get the results that we were looking for. … I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied.”
The main reason the Lakers had to pay that much in luxury tax is they decided to trade for Russell Westbrook and his $45 million super-max salary. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis already occupying maximum salaries of their own, those three players alone essentially put the organization over the luxury tax threshold.
That forced the Lakers to fill out the rest of the roster with basically minimum players and didn’t allow them to keep a key piece of their 2020 championship team in Alex Caruso. They also lost Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell in the trade, while Westbrook’s play underwhelmed in his first season with the Lakers.
All of those decisions led to the team missing the playoffs and fans being disappointed, which Buss understands:
“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.”
While Buss allows front office people to do their jobs, she also wants to make it clear that she is involved in the decision-making and is ultimately who should be held accountable:
“I’m kind of like my dad, where it’s kind of like, let the players, let the team, be the focus, not me,” she said. “But I get that I have been kind of in the background too much for people to understand what’s going on.”
While Buss is clearly frustrated with the current state of the Lakers, the question becomes where do they go from here?
Buss to be involved in coaching search
The Lakers are currently conducting a coaching search and are likely to interview 8-10 candidates and Buss is expected to be involved in those meetings.
Once they find a new coach, the focus will then shift to the roster with the biggest question mark being what they will do with Westbrook. The point guard has a $47 million player option that he will surely pick up, and once that happens, the Lakers will likely try to trade him.
What, if anything, the Lakers can get for Westbrook remains to be seen, although his contract will be a bit more appealing than last year considering it is now expiring.
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