Below is a transcript of Lakers executive Jim Buss appearing on 710 ESPN pleading patience surrounding the team’s 15-20 record.
Why are the Lakers losing?
I’ve had many many meetings with my dad and Mitch [Kupchak] to ask those questions over and over with what’s going on. Obviously injuries play a huge part into this. I don’t know if we’ve had five games where all our players are playing. With that being said, you ask the questions, what about chemistry? Well, when you have injuries like that, you can’t play enough games to get chemistry. That kind of answers the chemistry part. With defense, you can’t really get the defense going unless you’ve played together. With injuries, we haven’t played enough together. With the identity the team needs, you can’t really get an identity unless you have your players playing together many games. The reoccurring theme to all of us was basically the injuries have played a huge part of our losing.
How patient can you be with this roster given everything that has happened?
We like this team a lot. The way I look at it is we added Howard, Nash, Jamison, Meeks, Earl Clark, to name a few of the players we added to Kobe, Gasol and Metta. How can you not believe in this team? This team is built to win and is a really solid team. Again, we haven’t seen them all together and play together for games. In my mind, we would not consider a temporary fix or blow it up. Why blow up something we have a future with? It’s very difficult to talk this way because you’re five or six games under .500 and we dug ourselves a hole. But at the same time, I feel if we put it together, we can string seven or eight games in a row and dig ourselves out of a hole. If we play together and play with the energy in the last two games, I think you go into the playoffs with momentum. You saw what the Kings did as the eighth seed last year is they came into the playoffs hot and they bulldozed their way through the playoffs. I could see that happening with this team. I’m not ready to let that go.
When you fired Mike Brown, you had a chance to hire Phil Jackson. You chose Mike D’Antoni. Mitch Kupchak has said it simply was a question of you thought his system fit the personnel better. One, is that your opinion. Two, do you still think that’s the case?
Yes I believe that is my opinion and it was a collective opinion between my dad, myself and Mitch. I still think that’s the case. We have to play together more games. We went through a coaching change. That was unfortunate. I like D’Antoni a lot. I still believe in him 100 percent. I have no questions about him. We just have to have this team work together and play together. We just don’t have enough information to analyze anything. We don’t have enough data to put your finger on a problem.
What got Mike D’Antoni the gig?
Right off the top, this could be a long long answer. But I would say off the top, Steve Nash. We know the dynamics those two had together and we thought Steve Nash was our future point guard for the next three years and we needed a coach that we felt would fit with him and has coached him. We decided that was one of the main issues that we felt D’Antoni was better…not better than Phil. Nobody is better than Phil. We felt he fit the team we wanted to work it.
Do you wonder if they’ll make the playoffs or are you focused one game at a time?
I look at it game to game to see improvement and notice anything that would help us make decisions in the future. The one thing I’m holding onto is if we make the playoffs, that means we’ve turned it around. We are in a hole right now. We would be playing good ball going into the playoffs. I feel that if we turn this around, we’re going to go deep in the playoffs. The reason being, if we’re going to make the playoffs, we’ll have to be playing well.
What frustration do you have that you’ve done your job this offseason and the struggles are going on this season?
The way I look at it is basically we put together this team in the summer. We’re very excited. I’m still excited about the team. Injuries have played such a huge part of it that I’m not frustrated with the players at all. Everybody wants to see more of an effort. But the effort comes when you know who’s on the floor with you. I thought the guys last night played with good energy and the night before. But I’ve seen us play good halfcourt defense. Our transition is obviously weak and is the worst in the league. But as far answering am I frustrated with the players? Not at all. They’re frustrated. I’ve had conversations with a few of the players and they’re frustrated that they can’t play enough together to get a rhythm.
How do you feel about your chances in resigning Dwight Howard and the way the one year has gone so far with the Lakers?
To answer the same question, this is what I’m talking about, that reoccurring theme that I’ve been talking about. If we make the playoffs, that means we’re playing well and I think we’ll go deep in the playoffs and I think it’s a no brainer that he stays. I think if it continues to fall apart because of injuries, I’m hoping we can convince him everybody was injured and you weren’t 100 percent for the whole year. Let’s give it another shot next year. It points to 95% that we’ll be able to keep him. I can’t control what he does, but I for sure can make a great argument.
How do Lakers fans treat you when they meet you in person?
If we’re winning, obviously it’s 100 percent great, great, great. But the very interesting thing is that Lakers fans are very educated. What I see in me on a consistent basis every day is they understand why we’re losing to a certain degree because of the injuries. But they have faith and believe they can turn it around. I get positive feedback. I don’t get what you guys talk about or what the callers call in. That’s because I’m meeting them in person. But at the same time, it’s 100 percent positive reaction when I meet someone.
What do you think of the job Pau Gasol has done?
I love Pau Gasol. The thing is if you shoot the basketball from six feet, the percentage will be in the high 50’s. If you shoot from 18 feet, you’ll get lucky to shoot 40. To base his year based off his shooting percentage is not the right way to analyze how he’s playing. I believe if we can get him down low and he can coexist with Dwight Howard and play enough games to where they can play off each other. He played well with Andrew Bynum and Andrew Bynum takes a lot of space down there. But he can still play there. I believe eventually he will move down there and D’Antoni will move him down there and his percentage will go back to where it was.
How does the defense need to get better?
I hate to be repetitive. Once we start playing together and we get rid of the injury bug, I believe the defense will eventually form together where they can trust each other and play off each other and know what the other person is going to do and know how this player plays this way. It gets in such detail that I think the defense will improve automatically. The chemistry is the same thing. It’s part of the chemistry and part of identity. Right now we have no identity on defense. But that comes with playing together and starting to buckle down and know you have your back and this guy got this. What I believe is give it some time and let’s get it all together and not consider blowing this thing up at all.
There was one thing pointed out to me. When you shoot the 3’s, we’re shooting a lot more 3’s than we ever have, if you miss them, those rebounds tend to turn into transition baskets. If you look at our halfcourt defense, we’re fine. Someone gave me this statistic that we’re the fifth best defensive team in a half court seat. Obviously we’re probably 30th in the transition game. That wipes out the fifth in the halfcourt game.
I believe the effort is there. I don’t believe people are saying we’re loafing around on defense. I don’t see loafing around at all. I see easy buckets by the other team in transition. If we stop that, we shore up our defense. That to me comes with playing together.
With a $100 million payroll, can you fathom not making the playoffs?
Injuries. Dwight Howard was playing at 70%. He’s probably still in the 80 perecent. He doesn’t have the explosiveness. It’s frustrating to him. You can see it and he talks about it. We didn’t have Steve Nash, who handles the ball 50 percent of the time down the floor in the half court set. It’s probably more than that …
Steve Blake hasn’t come in where we have a solid backup like that. I like Darius Morris, but he’s a different kind of player. Duhon has done as good as he can. But the guys haven’t played together. Antawn Jamison fell out of the rotation for six games and he hasn’t played with the team.
I stuck my neck out, we stuck our neck out with this payroll. That’s because Kobe is in the twilight of his career and we want to win championships. So we’re willing to do that. Am I upset we might not make the playoffs? Of course. I’d be upset if I had a $10 payroll or a $200 million payroll. I want to win championships. But to panic, no, we’re not going to panic.
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