Kobe Bryant: It's Up to Jim and Jeanie Buss to Define LA Lakers' Next Era
The same can't be said about the shift from Dr. Jerry Buss to two of his six children, Jim and Jeanie. That's been an emotional transition, and it will inevitably be tough from a basketball perspective too.
In an article written by Ric Bucher of The Hollywood Reporter, Kobe Bryant weighed in on the transition in the front office, telling the reporter that it was important for the next generation of Busses to define the next era: "The shoes they're stepping into are so huge and epic. It's on the next generation in line to figure out what their leadership style is going to be and to do it their own way."
Jim and Jeanie have to adjust to a different landscape than the one their father dealt with while making the Lakers into a perennial powerhouse. The salary cap and luxury tax are more strict now, and small markets are becoming increasingly competitive in the race for marquee free agents.
Twenty years ago, 10 even, it would have been unthinkable for D12 to consider leaving the Purple and Gold for the Houston Rockets, and not just because the Lakers were in the midst of some championship-winning seasons. Playing in L.A. was just that appealing.
As Pat Riley says in the same article, "Things have changed. It's nowhere near the innocent, wonderful years of the '80s, when we all got on the train and Dr. Buss was the conductor."
Well, Jim and Jeanie are the co-conductors now, and they've got work to do in order to make sure that the Lakers aren't the NBA's caboose. With everything—and I mean everything—coming off the books at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, the siblings' decisions will have major ramifications on the future of this illustrious franchise.
Kobe may have unintentionally provided a little foreshadowing as well:
Bryant says he considered leaving the Lakers twice—as a free agent in 2004 and again via trade in 2007—and both times Dr. Buss talked him out of it. "You can tell by how someone runs their business if they're full of s*** or not," says Bryant. "He could tell you exactly what he had in mind and how he planned to get it done. And he had a track record."
On the scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most confident, how confident are you in the new Buss generation?
Kobe is included in the "everything is coming off the books" statement. His contract expires at the end of the year, and he'll be nearing the end of his career still in pursuit of the championship ring that matches Michael Jordan's total haul.
I don't want to read too much into that quote, as that was likely more of a compliment to Dr. Buss than a disparaging, between-the-lines insight into the Jim/Jeanie tenure. But still. You can't help but wonder a little bit based on the way Bucher phrased that paragraph.
Regardless, the newest generation of the Busses has some tough work to do, and Kobe will most assuredly be a central figure.
This season will start to shape the legacy that Jim and Jeanie leave.
Next offseason will define it.
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