Jerry Buss says Lakers can bank on him
Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
Owner says he'll pay what it takes, in salary and luxury taxes, to keep the team in championship contention. Retaining Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson is a priority.
By Mike Bresnahan
November 10, 2008
Jerry Buss sat back in a supple leather chair, not far from an oil painting of James Worthy grabbing an alley-oop pass from Magic Johnson in a long-ago NBA Finals game against Boston, a symbolic backdrop these days for the owner of the Lakers.
In the latest offering of the difference a year makes, Buss, 75, was relaxed and humorous Sunday in an interview, revealing with a glint in his eye how badly he wanted a Finals rematch with Boston while also saying how much he wanted to keep Kobe Bryant if the 10-time All-Star became an unrestricted free agent next July.
Along those lines, Buss said he would continue to pay luxury taxes on an annual basis "if that's what it takes to win."
He also envisioned Coach Phil Jackson staying beyond the expiration of his contract after next season because "this team looks like a delight."
The mini-riot Buss touched off last year by saying he would entertain trade offers for Bryant seemed to have taken place a century ago as he recounted more recent dealings with Bryant, including a key phone call after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol in February.
"I think Kobe very definitely understands how hard I made the effort to get sufficient talent to win," Buss said. "I was talking to him on the phone right as the Pau Gasol [trade] came through, and he said, 'Wow, I can go win with this now.' I think Kobe and I get along pretty well."
Well enough to open the vault again if Bryant leaves $47.8 million on the table and rips up his contract after this season?
"We really don't address those issues until they come up because we don't know what the environment is, but we can't afford to lose Kobe," Buss said.
In the 25-minute interview, Buss alluded numerous times to the sagging economy and the possibility of its trickling down to the NBA. Buss would probably have to sign off on a five-year contract worth $135 million if Bryant opted out next summer.
Buss said he could probably eliminate at least one competitor, taking a whack at a persistent rumor by saying he could not picture Bryant playing overseas.
"They have fewer games, smaller arenas and cheaper tickets and very little television," Buss said. "I can't see it, but there are people who are wealthy enough in the world that could make astronomical offers, and I certainly couldn't compete with that. But quite honestly, I just don't think that's a real threat."
Buss has presided over eight championships in his 29 previous years of ownership. He has also seen the Lakers advance to more than a dozen NBA Finals, though he would be dejected if they made it only that far this season.
"God willing for everybody staying healthy and that type of thing, then I feel that a championship is what we want," he said. "If we win the West this year, we've won it 15 times out of the last 30 years. Although that's pleasant, it's not our objective. Our objective is to be world champion."
There's more to read in that link
Edited by MDI, November 10, 2008 - 10:48 AM.