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Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is reportedly frustrated with the team after falling short of the playoffs this past season. Makes sense given the expectations and the payroll. We’d be pissed if we owned this team, too.
“I’m growing impatient because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league,” Buss said. “When you spend that kind of money…you expect to go deep into the playoffs. I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied.”
This has to be an eye-opener for the whole roster outside of maybe LeBron and Anthony Davis.
Jeanie Buss on the frustrating Lakers season:
“I’m growing impatient because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league. When you spend that kind of money… you expect to go deep into the playoffs. I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied.”
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) May 10, 2022
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, Buss describes the Lakers’ 33-49 season as “excruciating”, “heartbreaking” and “gut-wrenching.” We’d be feeling all those same emotions had we spent over $200 million on players that comes included with a $45 million tax bill for exceeding the NBA’s so-called tax threshold. All that spending for a roster of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and a bunch of role players. LeBron was great last year averaging 30 points per game, however Davis was injured for the bulk of the 2022 season and Westbrook even admitted he played poorly.
No way you can have a player like Russell Westbrook, that’s expected to opt-in to his $47 million player option, play poorly. Players cashing checks of that magnitude must be key contributors or you’re almost guaranteeing interviews like the one Jeanie Buss just offered. Pure frustration.
So what can the Lakers do?
It’s possible the Lakers view LeBron and Anthony Davis as untouchables, while the remaining roster becomes expendable to make the team better. This means Westbrook’s dismal contract will likely have to be included in a three-team trade that includes a player teams want like Lakers’ forward Talen Horton-Tucker or rookie guard Austin Reeves. The rest of the team was filled out by mostly aged veterans like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Wayne Ellington.
Jeanie Buss at least sounds like she wants to keep the core of this Lakers team together. What else can she say?
“There’s no reason for me to think we can’t win with them. Something that I learned from Phil Jackson is that there’s always a path to success,” Buss said. She would go on to say how she has “complete confidence in the front office, which is headed by GM Rob Pelinka” and “complete confidence that he can put together a roster and find a coach that is going to get us back to where we belong.”
If LeBron plays like LeBron in year-20 and Anthony Davis finds a way to stay healthy, then we’d understand why she would feel this way. Two top-10 players in the NBA, regardless of how they fit, is most often enough to compete in the NBA. That’s just the way this sport has always been since the early 80’s — top end talent is king in a game where five players play at a time. That said, how likely is that to happen and perhaps the remaining roster is just as important? LeBron is soon to turn 38 and Anthony Davis is habitually standing on the sidelines in street clothes.
The Lakers couldn’t shoot or defend a lick this season. Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Lakers guards were beat off the dribble at will while LeBron and AD took turns trying to save the day on the backend. Anytime a 37-year-old player is your second-best defender, you’re in trouble. Rob Pelinka will need to get to work finding shooters to surround James and Davis with reliable options from beyond the arc or they may as well deal the two stars to build towards the future. A team with no shooting has no space and a lack of space equals losing in modern day NBA.
Lakers fans can look at a 33-win campaign as reason enough to blow this core to bits, but there’s also reason to believe they can figure this out. Jeanie Buss would spend the rest of the interview explaining how accountable she is and that “the team isn’t for sale.” At least she’s got pride.