Is this a sign of things to come?
To help promote her new 10-part Hulu documentary “Legacy,” which covers the Los Angeles Lakers’ title-winning ways under the stewardship of the Buss family, L.A. controlling owner Jeanie Buss sat for an extensive conversation with Tyler R. Tynes of GQ.
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During the interview, Buss revealed that the Antoine Fuqua-helmed series has been in development for seven years, and was designed to highlight the achievements of both Dr. Jerry Buss, her father who bought the team in 1979, and of the club itself, tracking the 11 titles won by such NBA all-timers as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worth, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
When the chatter pivoted to the Lakers’ monumentally disappointing 33-49 season in 2021-22, Buss delivered some platitudes:
“With the Lakers comes the expectation of winning, and we obviously didn’t do that last season, so some changes have been made. Always, the Lakers want to contend for championships, which means you need a certain level of talent or resources for the coach to be able to put a team in a position to win. The expectation is for this team to win. But it’s hard to win a championship. You need a lot of things to go your way. But, if you’re not part of the conversation or you’re not a team that’s getting into the playoffs, well, you really can’t win a championship can you?”
Interestingly, when Tynes praised her for reaching an agreement on a contract extension with superstar forward LeBron James, Tynes hailed James as “the best player in basketball.” Though that title seems a bit generous for a player who misses 20 games a season and no longer plays defense, certainly it’s a compliment to the crown jewel of the Lakers’ roster. Buss herself, though, was (rightly) dubious of that distinction being appropriate for the 37-year-old James at this stage in his career. “What about Joel Embiid?” was her counter.
Things got spicier when Buss addressed the team’s hopes for the 2022-23 season, and how she anticipated the club could improve.
“We want to see Anthony Davis stay on the floor and be healthy the whole season. And when you have Anthony and LeBron, there’s a lot of great things that can happen. But you have to have a supporting cast of players that can fill roles and also stay injury free. We have Kendrick Nunn coming back after missing last season, and a lot of young players that…I can name names, but until we see how they play there really isn’t…we have to give Darvin Ham all of the time and resources he needs to put the team together to see how they move forward.”
Kendrick Nunn is a one-way reserve who missed every regular season second of what was supposed to be his first season in L.A. Opting into his $5.3 million salary for the 2022-23 was a no-brainer for the 6’2″ combo guard when the alternative was facing a non-existent free agent market for his services. Even the Lakers faithful are tempering their expectations for Kendrick Nunn. The interview was published on the very day that Patrick Beverley was traded to Los Angeles, so his exclusion from the conversation makes plenty of sense. But of course, he’s not the issue.
Never, not in that quote nor anywhere else in the interview, does Buss mention the elephant in the room: the albatross $47.1 million expiring contract of apparent persona non grata Russell Westbrook, the point guard for whom the Lakers offloaded much of their depth (starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, key reserve forwards Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, and a draft pick) in 2021.
Is Buss’s failure to talk about the 6’3″ former MVP by name a sign that she, too, would be happy to move on from the Brodie Experience, and perhaps doesn’t even anticipate that Westbrook will return to the team this year?
Well you surely don’t believe it was an inadvertent oversight, do you?