Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss has said before that the team is rebuilding under a deadline. Specifically, she has said, the Lakers need to make a deep run in the playoffs within three years or her brother Jim will step down from his post as president of basketball operations.
Asked about that deadline in a radio appearance with KPCC on Thursday, Jeanie Buss reiterated that timeline is still in place and that if the Lakers don't reach their goals by then, she's ready for change.
"Yeah, absolutely," Buss said. "This is my job. I'm part-owner of the team, but I'm also the president. The Buss family is the majority owner but we have other partners as well who are also shareholders, and I have an obligation to them. Would I make those changes? Yes. My brother understands that we have to continue to strive for greatness, and I think he would be the first one to feel that he would need to step down if he can't get us to that point."
She explained the circumstances surrounding that timeline.
"Well, I asked my brother, how long until we're back into contention? And when I say 'contention,' that means past the second round, so either the Western Conference finals or the NBA Finals," she said. "And he told me that it would take three years to rebuild it. So we've just finished Year 1 of that three-year [plan]. So we have two more years until he feels that we'll be back into going past the second round in the playoffs."
How would she evaluate how her brother has fared in his role thus far?
"I think that it's been clear that for the Lakers to miss the playoffs two seasons in a row, that's never happened before," she said. "We are coming off our worst season in the history of the franchise, which is tough to swallow, because my dad [former Lakers owner Jerry Buss] set the bar so high. But my brother had asked that he be given time to put together the kind of roster. And I agree that he needs the time so that he can show people what he envisions as Laker basketball going forward. "
The Lakers finished a franchise-worst 21-61 last season after losing 55 games the season before.
Jeanie Buss said the basketball operations staff has total control over its decisions and that she has "empowered" the staff to make those decisions.
"I don't interfere in the decisions that they make regarding players," she said.
Even if she doesn't agree with those decisions, she added.
"I have to allow them to show us what they can do and what they can put together," she said. "What I feel my job is, is to make sure that they have all the tools that they need to accomplish that goal."
In the wake of the Lakers losing out on several big-name free agents who have chosen to sign with other teams, she also said she believes the Lakers brand remains strong.
"I still think if you do even the playing field and everybody is still operating with the same tools and the same resources -- given all options that players would still gravitate toward the Lakers."Jeanie Buss, Lakers team president
"I do. I think that back when my dad bought the team in 1979, I think there was only 22 teams. Now there are 30 teams," she said. "There's more competition. There's now a more structured collective bargaining agreement with the players which has been designed to even the playing field so all 30 teams can compete for a championship. Which is great for the health of the league. I don't think the league has ever been healthier than it is now. But the rules have changed how we operate, and we have to continue to evolve as an organization so we can control our future and really put together a team that Lakers fans have come to expect."
So it's not as though the Lakers can snap their fingers and acquire any star player.
"And that's important in a league," she said. "You don't want one team to dominate."
Lakers fans might see it another way.
"Exactly," she said. "I still think if you do even the playing field and everybody is still operating with the same tools and the same resources -- given all options that players would still gravitate toward the Lakers."
She also was asked about Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant, who is entering his 20th season with the Lakers and the final year of his contract with the team.
Bryant, who will be 37 when the 2015-16 season begins, has not ruled out playing beyond his current contract with the Lakers.
"What I've made clear is only Kobe Bryant can decide when Kobe Bryant is done playing basketball," she said. "What I do want to stress is that we are celebrating his 20th year with the Lakers, which I don't think you're going to see very often.
"The idea that you stay with one team your entire career is going to change a lot as free agency continues to evolve through collective bargaining. I think this is an opportunity that we have to pay tribute to somebody that has been great for the Lakers, been great for Los Angeles. It's just a nice opportunity to celebrate Kobe Bryant. "