Los Angeles Lakers Offseason 2011: Jim Buss Needs to Be Put in Timeout
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The Lakers are between a rock and a hard place. They have just been eliminated from the 2011 NBA Playoffs after a string of below par performances in a series that lasted just seven days. They no longer have a head coach, and there seems to be no apparent camaraderie, let alone chemistry, among the members of the roster. The organization is in need of strong and decisive leadership.
In recent years, it has been quite apparent that owner Jerry Buss isn’t the one calling the shots at the Lakers front office. It seems as though his son Jim has already inherited the most expensive franchise in basketball. Jim has had substantial involvement in recent moves the Lakers have made including the decision not to trade Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony.
No one in LA really knows much about Jim. He has absolutely no past involvement in professional basketball, and although he may know a thing or two about ownership, he is in no way qualified to make general management decisions.
In early February, Jim decided not to swap Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony. In the 2005 NBA Draft, the Lakers selected Bynum with the 10th pick in the first round and Jim is believed to be the mastermind behind that move. If statistics are anything to go by, there is no doubt that Andrew Bynum has turned out to be a big bust.
During his six years in the league, the 7-footer has only once played a full 82-game season. His career has been plagued with injuries and multiples knee surgeries making him the biggest liability on the roster. One of these injuries may very well have cost the Lakers a championship in 2008.
OK, so maybe that’s just speculation. But why? Why is he always injured?
Would you have traded Bynum for Melo?
Even when Bynum is healthy, his ability isn’t especially anything to cheer about. He has averaged 10.5 points per game and just over seven rebounds a game in his career thus far. Despite Bynum’s current mediocrity, Jim is confident that the Lakers can build around Bynum.
Say what you want about Carmelo’s loyalty, but he is still one of the most potent offensive threats of the NBA today. The four-time All-Star has averaged 25 and six since he was drafted from the eminently talented class of 2003.
There’s no doubt that Kobe’s best basketball is behind him, and in the near future, the Lakers are going to find a new captain. Carmelo was a far better candidate for the job than was Bynum. In addition to his offensive explosiveness, Carmelo’s game offers tenacious defense. Just think back to the 2009 Western Conference finals.
The Denver Nuggets were faced with the dilemma of stopping Kobe Bryant. The previous year, Kenyon Martin was assigned the task and quite frankly failed miserably. In 2009, Carmelo took it upon himself to guard Kobe, and although his success is questionable, he did show his willingness to show up on the defensive end of the floor.
But Jim Buss said no to acquiring Anthony. He decided to make the Lakers and all their fans wait for Bynum’s supposed uprising that is about to occur any season now. It’s been six years. How much longer do we have to wait? Can Jim just admit that he was wrong in drafting Bynum?
Jim wants to hold on to Bynum because of his pride. He thinks that Bynum can the join the ranks of other great Laker bigs such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal. Anybody who is evenly remotely familiar with the game of basketball knows that Bynum is not of the caliber of those Laker legends.
The thing Jim doesn’t understand is that the Lakers never drafted any of these players. Drafting great players isn’t one of the Lakers’ strong points. Over the last 40 years, the Lakers haven’t drafted players who have gone on to be great with the exceptions of Magic Johnson and James Worthy.
It’s just not what they do. Instead, the Lakers acquire All-Stars through trades or free agency because of Jerry Buss' willingness to spend whatever it takes to make the Lakers a winning team.
The city of LA should not suffer in order to avoid Jim embarrassment. He may go on to inherit the Lakers franchise, but this is not his team. The Lakers belong to the determined and zealous citizens of Los Angeles. People often associate Angelenos with celebrities-turned-bandwagon fans who contribute to the stereotypical depiction that the media portrays so well.
But LA is a schizophrenic place. It’s other personality is Type A. Heart is what characterizes Angelenos. The Lakers are part of their identity. We don’t inherit riches like Jim. We work hard for them.
The main reason the Lakers cannot afford to keep Andrew Bynum is not because of his ability on the hardwood but rather because of his immaturity. In his last game played, Andrew Bynum blatantly assaulted Dallas Mavericks point guard JJ Barea and refused to apologize for his actions until days later.
This isn’t the first time Bynum has done such a thing during his career. Think back to the March 18th of this year when Bynum took a cheap shot at Michael Beasley in a similar fashion. Battery doesn’t represent the Lakers. This organization is known and loved for its class.
The Lakers celebrate wins with dignity and suffer losses with grace. Even if Bynum is a decent basketball player, there is no home for his character in Los Angeles.
With the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expiring and the possibility of a lockout looming, the Lakers have the perfect opportunity to get some soul-searching done this offseason. If the Lakers do make changes to the team, they must start with the management.
Jerry Buss needs to do the right thing. Put his son in check and let general manager Mitch Kupchak do his job. Reluctance may lead to the demise of one of the NBA’s greatest ball clubs.
My views are not meant to offend Jerry Buss as he is a fellow alumnus of my alma mater.
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