Jeanie Buss downplays Phil Jackson’s absence potentially hurting Lakers’ free agent efforts

 Phil Jackson during his introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden on March 18, 2014 in New York City.

Phil Jackson during his introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden on March 18, 2014 in New York City.

After once admitting last season that she felt the Lakers missed out on hiring the best coach, Jeanie Buss suddenly downplayed any concerns about Phil Jackson becoming the new Knicks president.

That includes the notion that Jackson’s 13 NBA championship rings and aura would win in a free-agent pitch over the Lakers brass that includes executives Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.

“I don’t agree with that,” Jeanie Buss said Thursday on ESPN 710. “I think the Lakers are a legacy franchise. I think that players know when they come here this is the ultimate platform. I really don’t think a free agent that’s going to come [will] not consider the Lakers. I’m not worried about that in any way, shape or form.”

Bold words from Jeanie considering she’s currently engaged to Jackson. Bold words considering Jeanie had admitted the Lakers choosing Mike D’Antoni over Jackson last season to replace Mike Brown emotionally affected her and strained her relationship with Jim.

Still, Dwight Howard left the Lakers this offseason for Houston, in part, because the Lakers didn’t listen to his hope to hire Jackson.

“I still don’t understand why he left. He had his own reasons,” Buss said of Howard, who then referenced the Lakers’ controversial move to place billboards around Los Angeles asking him to stay. “People I guess maybe would be talking [angrily] about the billboard. That really seemed to rub people the wrong way. I thought it was a good idea. It obviously didn’t mean anything to him.”

No it didn’t. Howard also disliked Kobe Bryant’s demanding personality and D’Antoni’s offense that featured him more on pick-and-rolls than in the post. Howard felt the Lakers didn’t credit him enough for playing through offseason back surgery and a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Howard had a close relationship with Jeanie, but the former Lakers center also felt skeptical with the organization’s vision following the death of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

Even amid the Lakers (22-45) about to miss the playoffs for only the fifth time in franchise history, Jeanie vowed the family will still oversee the team.

“There’s no reason for us to sell the team,” she said. “My dad made a plan, he made it possible for us to keep the team and that was a lot of years and years and years of estate planning. We want to operate the team as a family and there’s no reason for us to ever sell.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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