After watching the Los Angeles Lakers drop to 1-4 on the season with a 95-86 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss was not a happy man.
Something is not yet right with his star-studded team, and as a competitive guy, Buss is looking for ways to fix it sooner rather than later.
"You don't start 0-3 for the first time since we've owned the franchise without being on top of it," Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "No matter what, you have to be aware. That doesn't mean change is coming. That just means you have to be aware."
But while fans and pundits have placed the blame for the Lakers' early struggles on coach Mike Brown, Buss said he's still very confident in his coach.
"I have no problems with Mike Brown at all," Buss said. "He just works too hard and he's too knowledgeable for this to be happening.
"So either the system is flawed or something's going on. Or, like the Triangle, it's very hard to pick up and understand. I'm not a basketball mind like he is or the players are, and the players are fine with it, so I just have to be patient."
Buss said he has been gauging player reaction to the Lakers' new Princeton offense, Brown and how they're dealing with the slow start by reading their public comments and talking to them directly. On Tuesday afternoon, he went down from his office to the court during practice to take their temperature, and he said he found things to be rather calm.
"Kobe [Bryant] and I have a relationship where he can just look at me and say, 'Everything's cool,'" Buss said. "So yesterday during practice, I gave Kobe a quick glance, and everything was cool."
Bryant has continued to preach patience as the Lakers have struggled. Last week he said, "Everybody shut up. Let us work," when asked about fan reaction to the Lakers' slow adjustment to the Princeton offense. But in Wednesday's loss to the Jazz, even Bryant's patience appeared to be wearing thin.
He got into it with referee Ed Malloy after being called for a charge in the second quarter; he punched the ball inbounds rather than passed it when there was less than a second left in the third quarter; and he was caught on camera staring down Brown when he was sitting on the bench during a timeout in the waning moments of the fourth.
When asked about his frustration level after the game, Bryant deadpanned it was, "Just a little bit."
And what were the reasons that caused that frustration?
"None that I care to share," Bryant said.
In Buss' own words, "this team was built to win now." So just how patient can he be?
"You have to give it time to understand [what's going on]," Buss said. "I don't know if there's an actual game total that would make me impatient. I know if we're 1-15, I don't think that would be very good. I'm sure that would be a panic button. But at this time, I'm fine with what's going on. It's a learning process for the players. As long as everybody is on the same page, I think we're fine."
Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.