Report: There’s Serious Dysfunction in the Lakers’ Front-Office

by February 21, 2012
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It’s clear that no one is happy in Laker-land these days – the team is underwhelming on the court, the coaches have come under fire, and all of the front-office’s moves have badly backfired. CBS Sports takes a fascinating look at the growing mess within the organization: “The Lakers’ front office is an uncommunicative, rudderless fiasco, and the unrest and paranoia that have been festering for years threaten to derail the team’s plans to ride [Kobe] Bryant to his sixth NBA title while they still can. And much of it can be traced to the growing influence of executive vice president Jim Buss, the owner’s bon vivant son, who has helped transform a great franchise into a steaming pool of nepotism and nincompoops. In the months leading up to the lockout, the Lakers got rid of assistant general manager Ronnie Lester and most of his scouts. Rudy Garciduenas, the equipment manager for nearly 30 years, was let go. Alex McKechie, a renowned sports science expert, was told to pack up and was quickly scooped up by the Raptors. International scout Adam Fillippi wound up with the Bobcats. The list goes on. Longtime associates of former coach Phil Jackson were let go as the Lakers tried to ‘wash off anything that had touched’ the decorated coach, a person with ties to the front office said. Brian Shaw, Bryant’s preference to succeed Jackson, was interviewed for the job but came away with the clear impression that any efforts to associate himself with Jackson would ‘hurt him, not help him,’ a coaching industry source said. None of these people, who formed what a longtime NBA executive called one of the best front office staffs in the league, was given the courtesy of knowing whether they would be brought back after the lockout ended. Some are still waiting for that phone call. Joey Buss, another son of the owner who runs the team’s D-League franchise, has moved into Jackson’s old office. Jesse Buss, 23, who was arrested for alcohol intoxication in Lexington, Ky., on a ‘scouting’ trip in December, has moved into Lester’s former office. Not that anyone supposedly doing scouting or other basketball work is seen much around the team’s facilities these days. Jim Buss, who supposedly is the team’s director of player personnel, is virtually unreachable — including by me. He didn’t respond to my request for comment through the team’s media relations department, and his direct number is not listed in the Lakers directory that is distributed to teams. Even people who work in the basketball operations department have ‘no clue who’s on the staff,’ said a person with direct knowledge of the organization’s structure. ‘It would be interesting to find out who’s doing the scouting,’ the person said. [Mitch] Kupchak tried to fight to keep his staff, and his efforts were appreciated by some and viewed as not enough by others. The GM is ‘on an island by himself,’ said another person familiar with the situation. ‘He doesn’t know who to trust anymore,’ said another.”