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Blueprint for Jim Buss to Duplicate Jerry Buss' Success with LA Lakers

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 29, 2016

Blueprint for Jim Buss to Duplicate Jerry Buss' Success with LA Lakers

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    When Los Angeles Lakers icon Jerry Buss died on Feb. 18, 2013, the NBA lost the most revered and successful owner in the league's history. At the same time, control of the Lakers fell squarely into the hands of Jim Buss, who doesn't exactly hold the same esteem around the league as his late father did.

    Though the younger Buss had already taken on an expanded role as his father's health deteriorated in recent years, he's now in the position of running the show himself.

    It's asking a lot—too much, really—for the son to duplicate the unparalleled success of the father, but because the late Dr. Buss created such lofty standards in L.A., that's exactly what many Laker fans will demand.

    Even if he never measures up to the 10 championships his dad won in 34 years as team owner, Buss certainly has the advantage of having been around the team during the Lakers' glory years. That experience should give him some idea of the blueprint he'll have to follow in the future.

    And if he's not able to sort out the steps he'll have to take to duplicate his father's success, he could just peruse the ones compiled here.

    Let's hope he's not yet resorting to the Internet for answers, though.

    *All stats and NBA draft information via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.

Dominate the Draft

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    During Jerry Buss' time at the helm, the Los Angeles Lakers rarely had the opportunity to make a splash in the NBA draft—mostly because the team was too consistently good to secure many high picks.

    But whenever the Lakers actually had a valuable selection, they made the most of it under the elder Buss. And in fact, according to Rachel Shuster of USA Today, Buss conditioned his 1979 purchase of the Lakers on (among other things) the team's selection of Magic Johnson with the first pick in that year's draft.

    Three years and two titles later, L.A. used a pick acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers to select James Worthy with the No. 1 overall selection. And if there was any question that the early days of Buss' reign were part of a strange and different era, the Lakers' two titles and two No. 1 overall picks in a four-year span should serve as a good answer.

    Despite only having one more top-10 pick in the next three decades, the Lakers certainly made the most of their typically middling draft slots.

    A.C. Green arrived with the 23rd pick in 1985, and they selected Vlade Divac with the 26th pick in 1989. Divac would later be traded on draft day in 1996 for Kobe Bryant.

    In the most recent decade, L.A. used the 10th selection to nab Andrew Bynum, who played a role in a pair of championships before the Lakers flipped him for Dwight Howard last summer.

    So, clearly, one of the cornerstones of the Lakers' success under Buss was their good work in the draft.

    If L.A. ends up with a lottery pick this year, Jim Buss won't get a chance to prove his worth. That selection belongs to the Phoenix Suns, thanks to the deal that brought in Steve Nash. But going forward, Buss will have to show he can maximize the value of his team's picks if he wants to live up to his father's legacy.

Acquire an Elite Big Man

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    All Jim Buss has to do in the second step of the blueprint to duplicate his dad's success is get a hold of the NBA's very best big man.

    And guess what; the Lakers already have that man on their roster. So in this case, Buss' primary objective on this front will be retaining Dwight Howard.

    That might be easier said than done, though, as Howard has clashed repeatedly with Kobe Bryant this year and simply hasn't given many indications that he's certain to stick around L.A. when he hits free agency this summer.

    Even though his play has been nowhere near the level he showed as a member of the Orlando Magic, Howard is still young enough to eventually regain his elite athleticism. When that happens, the Lakers will have the most obvious successor to their long line of elite centers.

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got things started, and Vlade Divac kept the seat warm for Shaquille O'Neal, who arrived in 1996.

    After Shaq left town in 2004, the Lakers drafted Bynum and eventually brought in Pau Gasol.

    There's a rich history of elite big men in L.A., and it's no coincidence that championships seemed to show up when those frontcourt stars were in prime form.

    Jim Buss must find a way to keep Howard around.

Hire an Iconic Coach

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    Bad news Laker fans: Jim Buss might have already missed his shot to complete this critical step.

    In the aftermath of the Mike Brown dismissal, the Lakers flirted with Phil Jackson, but talks ultimately fell apart, resulting in Mike D'Antoni's hiring.

    Lakers legend Magic Johnson, for one, lit into Buss for his failure to come to terms with the Zen Master.

    Elite, proven coaches don't grow on trees, but they do have a history of taking root in L.A. It takes a rare breed to manage the egos, expectations and bright lights of Los Angeles, and Jackson could have handled the task. But now it seems unlikely that Buss would admit his colossal mistake the first time around by bringing him in to replace D'Antoni now.

    It's not as though Jackson is the only great coach out there, though.

    Jerry Buss found Pat Riley in 1981, and after jumping from coach to coach in the '90s, he brought Jackson in to handle the 2000s. Maybe his son can find the next great Laker coach for this decade.

    Just a hunch, though: D'Antoni's not that guy.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

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    From 1982 to 2002, Lakers general manager Jerry West put together one of the most impressive series of transactions in NBA history.

    The list of players and coaches West brought in during those two decades is stunning. From the Showtime team of the 1980s to the Shaq-Kobe Lakers of the last decade, West was responsible for building it all.

    And he did it because Jerry Buss gave him the autonomy he needed to make the bold moves that formed a championship-caliber team. Mitch Kupchak did things with a similar amount of freedom.

    Jerry Buss was an extremely intelligent man, but one of his greatest qualities was his willingness to delegate basketball responsibilities to minds more suited to the task.

    The recent Phil Jackson debacle makes it seem as though Jim Buss is a bit too involved in the basketball side of running the Lakers organization. He'll have to take a step back and defer to Kupchak if he hopes to follow in his father's footsteps.

Embrace Patience

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    When Kobe Bryant demanded a trade in 2007, the Lakers rode out the storm under the patient leadership of Jerry Buss.

    The owner knew he had an irreplaceable talent in Bryant and reportedly turned down at least one deal that would have seemed enticing at the time. And remember, Bryant was a certified malcontent back then—much more so than he is now. Nobody would have blamed Buss or the Lakers for moving on.

    But the team held strong, stayed patient and retained Bryant. That decision led to two more championships in the ensuing three years.

    Fast forward to this season, when the decidedly less patient approach of Jim Buss led to the firing of Mike Brown after just five games.

    Nobody's arguing that Brown was the man for the job in L.A., but the knee-jerk reaction certainly wasn't a move in keeping with the Lakers' historically careful approach.

    As you read this, the Lakers are dealing with infighting, a coach that can't seem to motivate his players and an aging core that desperately needs rejuvenation. But panic and rash moves aren't the way to address those concerns.

    Jerry Buss would have taken his time, ensuring that logic trumped emotion. His son must employ a similarly thoughtful tack in his decision-making process.

    That, above all, might be the most important part of any blueprint for the Lakers' success in the post-Jerry Buss era.

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