Kobe Bryant remained in a dour mood and the reasons went beyond more important matters than the Lakers’ 125-101 loss Thursday to the Clippers.
He sounded understandably concerned about Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who has been treated for cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
“Out of respect, they obviously don’t want us saying too much about it,” Bryant said. “But I think we all feel the same as far as his health goes and trying to maintain a positive outlook.”
Nonetheless, Bryant gushed plenty on Buss’ time as the Lakers’ owner.
Buss has owned the Lakers since 1979, when he purchased the team along with the Forum, the NHL’s Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for $67 million from Jack Kent Cooke. Since then, the Lakers have become one of the sport’s top franchises, winning 10 of their 16 NBA championships under Buss’ watch. That’s only one shy of the Lakers’ rival, the Boston Celtics.
A huge part of that reason involves Buss’ willingness to take risks and spend money to secure high profile players, which have included Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers remain the NBA’s top spending team with a $100 million payroll and $30 million in luxury taxes.
“He’s extremely extremely intelligent and extremely patient,” Bryant said. “He’ll sit and wait. He has his goals. He knows exactly what he wants to do and how he wants to construct a ballclub. He’s extremely smart about going about it. It’s very rare to find that kind of owner who can seemingly not make any mistakes. It’s pretty impressive.”
One of those instances included the Lakers’ refusal to trade Bryant despite making endless requests five years ago out of frustration with the team’s struggles. Following O’Neals trade in 2004 to Miami, the Lakers missed the playoffs the following season and faced playoff elimination in the first round for two consecutive seasons afterwards.
But the Lakers then acquired Pau Gasol Feb. 2008 from the Memphis Grizzlies, a move that spurred three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two NBA titles.
The Lakers were recently listed by Forbes Magazine as the second-most-valuable team in the NBA at $1 billion, trailing the New York Knicks. Part of that value has increased because of a lucrative 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
Yet, the Lakers’ brand became global well before recent years. Such an appeal helped spark interest in basketball, including a young Bryant in Italy.
“Think about the impact that he’s had on the game and the decisions he’s made and the brand of basketball he brought here with Showtime and the impact that had on the sport as a whole,” Bryant said. “Those vibrations were felt to a kid all the way in Italy who was six years old. before basketball was even global. His impact is felt worldwide.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org