When Dr. Jerry Buss died in February, for better — and, often, for worse — the Los Angeles Lakers were handed over to his son, Jim.
The younger Buss controls the basketball side of things for the NBA’s most glamorous and successful franchise, while his sister handles the business aspects.
Jeanie Buss believes their father could have persuaded free agent superstar center Dwight Howard to stay in L.A., and acknowledges what a terrible blow to the Lakers’ brand and on-court play Howard’s departure to Houston was.
Jim, though, completely dismisses the big fella in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter:
Jim insists he’s just following his father’s blueprint, but the Howard situation suggests he missed a page. Instead of Jim spending time with Howard, the team launched a widely derided media campaign that implored “Stay” on billboards. After Howard bolted, Jim turned on his former star, saying he wasn’t surprised or dismayed. “He was never really a Laker,” says Jim. “He was just passing through.”
Those close to Howard say the Lakers could have persuaded him to stay. Even Jeanie believes that if her father had not been sick, he would have sealed the deal like so many before it. “It’s disappointing that Dwight isn’t here,” she says. “I feel like we failed him.”
The Los Angeles Lakers went to great lengths to keep Dwight Howard, but ultimately, they lacked Dr. Buss’ finishing touch. Of course, they will have a terrific chance to reload next summer with a star-studded free agent class, and must learn from their failures this time around.
Kobe Bryant says Jim and Jeanie are stepping into their father’s “huge and epic” shoes. So far, they have only managed to stumble.