Don't let the malaise of a mediocre season fool you, because things are far worse behind the scenes of the Lakers organization.
CBS Sports Ken Berger reports things have gone from championship caliber to an awful mess in regards to Lakers management.
This is a franchise that ran like a machine, pumping out playoff-bound teams like Nike does sneakers. Jerry Buss took over the team in 1979, and any fear the organization would falter was quickly silenced with a title in 1980.
LA would go on to take four more in the 80s and another five after that. Buss did it by betting big on great talent and putting the best people in the front office.
Times, they have gone and changed.
Kobe Bryant Chimes In
The most public notice that things were going wrong was Kobe Bryant sounding off on the incessant Pau Gasol trade rumors that continue to plague this team.
Bryant came out and stated that the front office needed to step up and make a final decision, and that it was working as a detriment to their star Spaniard.
Former Lakers great Magic Johnson chimed in with glowing praise for Kobe Bryant taking time to show some leadership in this organization, because it is not currently coming from anywhere else.
Have to admire what Kobe said having @paugasol back.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 21, 2012
Bryant's words are important, via CBS Sports:
If they're going to do something, I wish they would just (expletive) do it. If they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it.
Berger than quotes a source close to Bryant:
When Kobe speaks up, it means things are getting bad. It means nobody's telling him anything.
The most important player on the team is getting nothing from management, something that would be unthinkable just a few years prior.
The Lakers really only had one message that mattered, and it was echoed through out the organization. From El Segundo to Staples Center, it was win at all costs.
Jim Buss has destroyed all that in taking over for his proud pop.
The message is now being drowned out by nepotism and a shroud of secrecy that is working to destroy everything Jerry Buss worked to build.
Berger issues that there is no camaraderie behind the scenes. Long-time staff members that were part and parcel of the purple and gold ethos are gone, that includes; assistant general manager Ronnie Lester, Rudy Garciduenas, Alex McKechie and International scout Adam Fillippi.
International scouts and domestic experts were axed, and anyone with the slightest tie to Phil Jackson was lopped off.
In the middle is Mitch Kupchak, the face of better days. This is hardly his fault and Berger writes as much when he issues"
"Kupchak tried to fight to keep his staff, and his efforts were appreciated by some and viewed as not enough by others. The GM is 'on an island by himself,' said another person familiar with the situation."
Jim Buss has come in and swept the floors of any remaining dust from the championship era. What's left is his way of doing things, and there is no way of knowing where that goes.
The future is bleak as Jim Buss, the leader of this mindless wandering is said to be unreachable by staff. A franchise that had a very hands on Jerry Buss will see an aloof hands-off approach take over.
Things are not bad, they are downright disastrous.
It is all starting to make perfect sense. Lamar Odom was dealt too easily, with minimal talent taking his place. Pau Gasol is dangled like the Lakers are in the middle of a going out of business sale.
Kobe Bryant is demanding an answer and the product on the floor is as inconsistent as a Del Harris coached team.
Dark days are not on the horizon, they are here. Savor the banners that hang from the Staples Center rafters, because it will be years before another is placed up there again.
This Lakers are stalled behind the scenes, and that means the team on the floor is going nowhere.