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.
(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.