Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss, the son of owner Jerry Buss, has looked at the team he helped assemble and declared it fine, despite losing five games in a row and ranking out of the playoffs to date.
Fans have been waiting to hear from Buss. During an interview with ESPNLA, he said a lot:
“We still like this team a lot. How can you not believe in this team? This team is built to win. It’s a very, very solid team. We haven’t seen them all together and play together for games. In my mind, we would not consider a temporary fix or blow it up. Why blow up something we have a future with?
“It’s very difficult to talk this way because we’re five games under or six games under .500, and we’ve dug ourselves a hole. But at the same time, I feel that if we put it together, we can string seven or eight games in a row and dig ourselves out of this hole. If we play with the energy we’ve seen in the last two games, then I think you go into the playoffs with momentum.”
The Lakers have been hampered by injuries. Dwight Howard, the significant pick in the off-season, has not had it easy recovering from back surgery. And now he is out indefinitely with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Steve Nash’s broken bone in his leg sidelined him for seven weeks. All-star big man Paul Gasol has battled leg pain and is out for an undetermined time with a concussion.
Backup point guard Steve Blake has been out after the first five games because of an abdominal injury. And key reserve Jordan Hill is out right now, too. Still, despite brilliant play by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have been sleepwalking through much of the season. Even firing Mike Brown five games into the year and hiring Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson did not provide a spark.
It has been so bad that Bryant called the team “old and slow.”
All that, and Buss said he remains optimistic.
“We thought Steve Nash was our future point guard for the next three years and we needed a coach we felt would fit with him,” Buss said. “That was one of the main issues where we thought that D’Antoni was better than Phil. Well, not better, nobody’s better than Phil, but we felt that he fit the team the way we wanted to work it.
“I like D’Antoni a lot. I still believe in him 100 percent. I have no questions about him. We just have to have this team work together and play together. We just don’t have enough information to analyze anything. It’s just not enough data to put your finger on a problem.”
Buss added: “We stuck our neck out with this payroll because Kobe is in the twilight of his career and we want to win championships. Now, am I upset that we might not make the playoffs? Of course. I’d be upset if I had a $10 payroll or a $200 million payroll. I want to make the playoffs and I want to win championships. But to panic? No, we’re not going to panic.”