Heisler: Jerry Buss wanted his organization back

If the Lakers are the NBA’s smartest, wackiest organization, it starts with the man on top. Leaving aside the Hugh Hefner II lifestyle, my respect for Buss’ intellect is such that I can’t accept his explanation.

If they didn’t lose O’Neal and Jackson to re-sign Bryant, the series of events added up to a massive, lucky coincidence.

I have argued this ever since with Lakers people who have a lot more inside info, including Jeanie Buss. She is the only one of Jerry’s four children by his first wife who graduated from college and went to work.

Gracious, charming and, of course, lovely, she’s the Buss who puts the “family” in “Laker family,” with things like her frequent calls to Marge Hearn, Chick’s widow.

Jeanie also is fiercely devoted to her father. For years, we’ve gone back and forth on the reasons they traded O’Neal, including a radio show she invited me to do and an appearance we did before a USC journalism class.

Amazingly, as kooky as the Lakers are, they get enough right in the end to out-perform everyone else, assuming the Celtics’ role since the end of the Auerbachian dynasty.

My first thought upon hearing D’Antoni, not Jackson, had been hired was “Huh?”

(Actually, it was “Oh my heaven, after all the stuff I wrote saying it was Phil. Is there any chance nobody read any of it?)

On the other hand, it’s been clear for years – and now more than ever – that the Lakers’ real problem is their starting lineup. It’s the biggest and most skilled in the game with its 33 All-Star selections. It’s also the slowest and most lethargic.

Personally, I would bring Pau Gasol off the bench, which is also a little low on athleticism, too, not to mention firepower. They could start Jordan Hill in his place, or a three-guard lineup with Bryant defending small forwards.

Of all the coaches noted in this story, the likeliest to do this is D’Antoni. And the reserve likeliest to jump into the picture is Chris Duhon, whose had his best and only good seasons under D’Antoni in New York.

For better or worse, it’s a new day in Lakerdom, finally.

Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops, LakersNation and the Old Gray Lady. His power rankings appear every Wednesday during the regular season, and his columns and video reports appear regularly here. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. says

    mark! come back to LA! Ur the best Laker writer we ever had! u and chick hearn taught me more about the nba than all my other sources. i don’t understand why they let u go!

  2. DaveKnows says

    Everyone was shocked about this move but when I first heard about Phil back with the Lakers I thought the triangle wouldn’t be as unstoppable as it once was because it wouldn’t play to the strength of this team as currently constructed. I think the sweep to Dallas also played a big factor. They probably looked at enough Nash in Phoenix tapes an thought that Nash would excel under Mike more than under Phil. Howard would have a hard time adjusting to triangle and Steve would be on he perimeter shooting threes. They liked what the saw in Phoenix and wanted that hear and I actually think they will dominated in reg season in Mikes system. Gasol Howard and Kobe all like to play with their back to the basket and a system with constant picks and rolls will overwhelm most of their competitors.

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